Saint Anthony Chapel is located on Troy Hill, which overlooks the Allegheny River on Pittsburgh's North Side. This Shrine, dedicated to the "Wonder-Worker," St. Anthony of Padua, houses a vast collection of relics and has been designated a Historical Landmark by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation.
Construction began on the chapel in 1880 under the direction of Father Suitbert G. Mollinger son of a wealthy Belgian family, and the first pastor of Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish. Father Mollinger personally financed the building of the tiny devotional chapel to house his large collection of relics. Dedication of the chapel took place on the Feast of St. Anthony, June 13, 1883. Thousands of people made their way to visit the Shrine, and to be blessed by Father Mollinger and the relic of St. Anthony, the most venerated relic in the chapel. The first-class relic is now located in a small reliquary within a repository on the St. Anthony Altar.
An inscription written in Latin on the central arch of the chapel reads, “Here Lie the Saints in Peace.” Over 5,000 relics of the saints have reposed peacefully in the chapel for over 130 years. The impressive collection is displayed in beautifully wrought reliquaries, arranged in altars and side cases constructed of hand-carved solid walnut. Many of the reliquaries contain multiple relics. For many centuries these relics were venerated in Europe. Documents to verify their authenticity accompanied the acquisition of he relics and are retained with security.
Among the thousands of relics of the saints in the chapel are three central reminders of the most profound aspects of our faith – Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross, and His glorious resurrection from the dead. Located in the left transept of the chapel is a reliquary containing approximately 700 relics. A large cross in the center holds a splinter of the True Cross, a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, and a piece of the stone from the Holy Sepulchre.
In addition to the collection of relics of the saints, Father Mollinger also acquired a set of life-size Stations of the Cross for the chapel while on a visit to Europe, These priceless Stations were carved of wood by artists of the royal Ecclesiastical Art Establishment of Mayer and Company in Munich, Germany. The acquisition of the Stations made it necessary to enlarge the chapel and steps were taken to build an addition. Upon completion of the addition in 1892, Father Mollinger again scheduled a dedication for the Feast of St. Anthony.
Father Mollinger never counted cost when building his repository for the acquired relics. This applied to the reliquary chapel as well as to the later addition. He spent $300,000 from personal funds to provide a stately ecclesiastical edifice on Troy Hill in Allegheny City – now Pittsburgh’s North Side. The chapel’s stained glass windows, all imported from Europe, attest to his wishes for exquisite workmanship. The fourteen stained glass windows above the Stations of the Cross portray the apostles, along with Ss. Paul, Stephen, and Lawrence. The center window above the entrance depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, and also St. Joseph. To the left and right are windows honoring St. Anthony and St. Catherine of Siena.
Sadly, on the day of the dedication of the addition of the chapel, Father Mollinger collapsed. He died two days later. The absence of a will prompted Bishop Richard Phelan, then bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, to make a settlement with Father Mollinger’s heirs and acquire title to the chapel for $30,000 – a pittance compared to its actual value. The chapel thus became church property deeded to Bishop Phelan as trustee for Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish. The struggling German families of the parish eventually raised the $30,000 to repay the Bishop.
Over the years, the chapel fell into a sad state of disrepair. Bishop Vincent M. Leonard of the Diocese of Pittsburgh gave permission for its restoration. In the summer of 1972, a Saint Anthony Chapel Restoration Fund Committee was formed and fundraising began. The restoration was done in three stages as money became available and was completed in November 1977.
In the 1980s, following the restoration, the chapel was opened on a more regular basis. More and more pilgrims came to admire its beauty, adding their prayers to those who had come over the previous 100 years. Pilgrims continue to acclaim the exemplary lives of the saints as model of the church and to marvel at the splendor of the array of relics gathered by the servant of the church, Father Suitbert G. Mollinger.