Superfan-turned-Munhall Bureau Chief Lee Floyd files his first story for The Orbit with a classic Pittsburgh who-done-it? and where-did-it-go? on a great piece of religion-meets-industry history from the former steel capital of the world.
As a tot, I was cruisin’ around Munhall in Cathy (my mother’s third-owner Cordoba) and watching the power lines move like waves with each pole we passed. Suddenly, I exclaimed, “There’s the Statue of Liberty!” Wrong state, wrong artist, wrong blog! I said it, and my family never let me forget it.
While he didn’t create anything quite as well-known as Lady Liberty, Frank Vittor (1888-1968), Italian-born sculptor and artist, has at least 50 works in and around the Pittsburgh area, including the prominent icons of Schenley Park and Bucco Field. The piece that many Steel Valley residents remember most-fondly is the statue of St. Joseph the Worker. High atop St. Michael’s bell tower, he was certainly hard to miss by anyone passing through the area.
The Slovak St. Michael Parish built the eponymous church in 1927. Though adorned with beautiful sculptures and architectural details, it was not until 1967 that the church acquired the statue of St. Joseph the worker for its impressive bell tower.
“After designing a six-foot-tall plaster model, Vittor sent it to the Bruni Foundry in Rome for casting in aluminum and then to the Vatican for a papal blessing by Pope Paul VI. The sculptor viewed this final statue as another permanent tribute to the working man that he so admired. When Vittor passed away two years later, his Saint Joseph the Worker capped a prolific career…” (Iorizzo, Rossi 153)
I can’t think of a better tribute to the working man of Pittsburgh than what appears to be ladles of molten steel dumpin’ dahn on the world with flames shootin’ aht da back. Typically Joe carries a small wooden L-square and a woodworking tool or staff of flowers. In this case, Vittor fitted him with a badass riveted bar of steel and modern working boots. Now you should also roll up your sleeves and get back to work.
Photos and text by Lee Floyd.
An Orbit side trip: Reading Lee’s piece and seeing the molten steel pour down on the globe, we couldn’t help but think of one of our favorite, beautifully unfortunate corporate identities: Sherwin-Williams Paint’s old “Cover the Earth” image that perversely renders nearly the entire globe dripping with blood red Sherwin-Williams paint, as if this were an ideal world to strive for.
According to the Sherwin-Williams history/timeline, the concept goes back to the 1890’s, so we can’t claim they were biting Frank Vittor (although Frank may well have been aware of Sherwin-Williams). A special side note to this side trip is that “The paint…is not pouring over the North Pole, as we tend to assume, but over Cleveland, Ohio, the center of the paint universe.” No comment.
- Italian Americans: Bridges to Italy, Bonds to America, Luciano J. Iorizzo and Ernest E. Rossi https://books.google.com/books?id=k9iaJLKJmJoC&pg=PA153
- Sherwin-Williams history/timeline: http://excellence.sherwin.com/history_timeline.html
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