by Chrysa Smith

Look to the right. Then think old-world workmanship, medieval art and artifacts and hundreds of rolling acres. Somewhere in England? Scotland? France? Actually, it’s Pennsylvania.
Hard to believe that the state known for it’s cheesesteaks, die-hard sports fans and steel mills is actually home to this beautiful, castle-like museum situated in Bryn Athyn–a stone’s through and miles apart from the City of Brotherly Love.
On the other hand, it makes perfect sense that Glencairn Museum and it’s affiliation with the New Church of Jerusalem is in PA—the home of William Penn; a strong proponent of freedom of religion. And it also makes sense that this treasure of medieval art and architecture was once home to 20th Century industrialist Raymond Pitcairn–a staunch member of the church and architect of their grand cathedral.

But enough about that. Step inside and be wowed. This museum was once Pitcairn’s home–unbelievable. The structure is clearly cathedral based—stained glass, gothic features, stone, marble. Lots of customized furnishings with carved biblical verses and family member names and symbols. The lifestyle had to be akin to royalty—no shag carpeting or chia pets here. Formal is the tone of the day. And I suppose that makes the perfect setting for it’s current collection of medieval art—said to be the largest in the country.

I must say, I was amazed at the museum contents. Coming face-to-face with Egyptian and Greek religious artifacts that predate our A.D. calendar is usually something only done in major metropolitan art museums, not private collections open to the public and quite accessible. While I can’t say I know much about the affiliation with The New Church, I can say that it is Christian, follows the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, who apparently taught that all that has come before has a place in forming their current beliefs–a sort of chronological smorgasbord leading to the present.

I can buy that. It sounds quite inclusive. But my favorite feature, beside some of the beautiful tile and stained glass, is the tower. A teeny, weeny elevator takes you to the top of the spire, where a glass observatory opens out to fantastic and sweeping views of the countryside and Center City Philadelphia. Just beautiful. And apparently, the location of a few of the museum’s many events—recently, champagne and fireworks. Now, doesn’t that beat a chalice full of Mogan David?

If you find yourself in the Philly area and would like a beautiful afternoon, check out the Glencairn Museum, located on Cathedral Road in Bryn Athyn–and the adjacent Bryn Athyn Cathedral. Tours Daily. Info: