Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Father Gallitzin's Home Town

If you look at it on a road map, Cambria County seems in the proverbial sticks. But do not delude yourself. Much that is of great interest happened in or is associated with the county, including one of the most famous floods in American history. Johnstown, of course.
I'm sure I'll get back to Johnstown and other Cambria topics as I go along. For today I want to concentrate on one small dot on the map. Loretto. You might call it the American home town of the famed Father Demetrius Gallitzin, known as the Apostle of the Alleghenies.
It's been a while since I've been there; and, even looking on the map, it's hard for me to describe how to get there. It's between Johnstown and Altoona, and about a 10 minute drive--so they say--east of Ebensburg. All I can say is that, if you DO get there, you'll find you have a long memory of the place. I checked my own l0ng memory to find out what had changed, so I wouldn't lead you astray.
The thing I remember most has nothing to do with Father Gallitzin, but with Charles M. Schwab, founder of the once-famous Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Schwab was from this place, loved it, and built his summer home, Immergrun, here. ( The name means "Evergreen".)
A devout Catholic, he left the estate for religious purposes; and today it is Mount Assisi Monastery. The old mansion is used as a residence for retired priests, and may not be visited. But the beautiful sunken garden, with its cascading waterfall and religious sculptures, is open to the public during daylight hours.
Next to it is St. Francis University, where, if memory serves, Schwab went to school. But that was long ago, in the days bef0re it was St. Francis University. On the campus of the university you will find the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, the name of which is a puzzle to me. It seems to me that, at Loretto, we are in the Northern Appalachians if we are anywhere.
Do not neglect a visit to Prince Gallitzin's Chapel House, where you will find his personal effects; to St. Michael's Church (a minor basilica these days), and to his tomb.
You do not have to be Catholic to find these things interesting. This priest was also a builder of our state and nation.
A word about some of the names I have thrown at you. "Cambria" is Latin for "Wales". This is soft coal mining country. As such it attracted many Welsh immigrants, because coal mining was a very big industry in Wales. "Ebensburg" was named after Ebenezer Lloyd, its Welsh founder.

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