The Shrine of Saint John Neumann – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Shrine of Saint John Neumann

The body of St. John Neumann and his collection of hundreds of relics, on display in a Philly church. 

Upon his canonization, Saint John Neumann was exhumed and placed on display for veneration. First they removed some bones and cut them into small pieces to be set in very small, glass-covered containers—one of which is set in the wooden cross that the priest uses to bless the congregation during devotions. His body was then clothed with Bishop’s robes and his face covered in a smooth, white mask mimicking his features.

To the side of the Shrine is a small museum dedicated to the life and death of St. John Neumann. This includes old photographs, sculptures, books, jewelry, coffins, and especially haunting instruments of self-mortification. Behind the altar is the Bohemian-born saint’s personal collection of hundreds of relics from other saints. These include teeth, bones, skulls, and other miscellaneous and unidentifiable bits and pieces.

While the shrine is the real draw, it’s also worthwhile to ask one of the monitors to see the church. If they’re obliging, it’s an amazing piece of architecture, complete with a chapel dedicated to a plague which, lore has it, affected the entire city but spared the members of Neumann’s parish.

Know Before You Go

Coming North Using I-95: Exit 22 (Old Exit 17) Callowhill Street. Please note that the exit is left. Stay in right lane of exit lanes. See 3rd Street at bottom of exit ramp. Move to the right lane and at 5th street, turn right. Less than half a block from the Shrine, you may park in Shrine lots located on the right and left, or continue to Girard Avenue. Parking: make right onto Girard and then right onto Lawrence Street to parking lot.

Coming South Using I-95: Take Girard Avenue exit. Follow Girard Avenue to 5th Street. Parking: Turn left on Lawrence Street (one street before 5th Street) to parking lot.

From Pa. Turnpike: Take I-76 East to Rt. 676 East (Vine Street Extension). Exit at 8th Street then get into the left lane to go north on 7th Street. Follow 7th Street to Girard Avenue. Turn right at Girard Avenue. Follow to 5th Street. Parking: Go one more street after 5th St. Turn right at Lawrence St. to parking lot.

From Independence Hall: Follow 5th Street (same street) north for one mile to Girard Avenue. (note: after Arch St., look for a short tunnel which will exit back onto 5th St. to Girard Avenue.

From New Jersey Benjamin Franklin Bridge: Over Bridge stay in right lane and Toward the end of bridge all traffic will be slowing and turning to the right right. Be in right lane. Turn right at the end of the bridge, about 90 degrees. You will be on 5th Street, seeing an iron railing on your right. The spire of St. Peter's will be up ahead. Go to Girard Avenue. For parking, turn right onto Girard and then right onto Lawrence Street to parking lot.

From the North (New York, Ct., Area): Follow NJ 295 South to Exit 36B (Route 73 North Tacony Bridge) follow 4 miles to Route 90 West which will exit left. Follow for 1 mile to Betsy Ross Bridge. Over bridge to 95 South to 2nd exit, which is Girard Avenue. Follow Girard Avenue to 5th Street. Parking on Lawrence Street next to Rectory.

From the New Jersey Turnpike (New York, Ct., Area): Exit 4: take Route 73 North for four miles to Route 90 West (exit left) go one mile to BetsyRoss Bridge. Go over bridge to 95 South; take 2nd exit (Girard Avenue) follow Girard Avenue to 5th Street. Parking on Lawrence Street next to Rectory.

Public Transportation (SEPTA): The Market-Frankford subway line has a stop at Girard Avenue. It is about a ten or fifteen minute walk west along Girard Avenue to St. Peter's. The Number 15 bus runs east and west along Girard. The Number 57 bus runs north and south, and has a stop at Girard (4th Street, going south, and 3rd Street going north).