Monday, December 21, 2015

Behold the Beauty of Bryn Athyn's Glencairn Museum

Located in Montgomery County in the bucolic borough of Bryn Athyn, is a spectacular residence-turned-museum that is home to an impressive collection of some of the finest antiquities in the nation.

The stately structure looms high atop a hill at the top of Cathedral Road, a castle-like Romanesque building that will make you question for a moment if you're been transported beyond our shores. 

Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn, Pa in the winter



The Cathedral

The mansion, deemed "Glencairn," was once home to Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn and their eight children. Open to the public since 1982, the structure serves as a museum of religious art and history. The building houses thousands of works of art from Greece, Rome, Medieval Europe, ancient Egypt and the Near East and showcases one of the finest private collections of French Medieval stained glass in the country. On average, more than 21,000 guests tour the museum every year.

Just a few of the many beautiful stained-glass windows that adorn the interior of the Glencairn Museum






Following the Tenets of the "New Church"
The Gothic Cathedral that is located within viewing distance of Bryn Athyn's Glencairn Museum and the adjacent home named Cairnwood, were all built as a tribute to the faith embraced by Raymond and his father John Pitcairn.

John hailed from Scotland, arriving in the United States in 1846 and soon afterwards was baptized into the church whose adherents followed the teachings of Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenbord (1688-1722.) Swedenborg provided guidelines for having a relationship with God and bringing religion to everyday life.

John left home to work on the Pennsylvania railroad at a young age, starting out as a telegraph operator and rising to the rank of Superintendent. During the 1870s oil boom, he amassed enough wealth to co-found the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company.


Pitcairn later moved to Philadelphia and befriended Rev. Henry Benade, the first pastor of the "New Church" and the two traveled to Egypt and the Holy Land to share their message. During this time, Pitcairn and Benade transported more than 1,0000 artifacts, from pottery, to bronze statues and amulets, to name a few.

Antiquities that populate the Glencairn Museum





By the end of the 19th century, John was a wealthy industrialist and was able to purchase land in Montgomery County, building a home in Bryn Athyn, which he named Cairwood. There he and his wife Gertrude raised three sons, with Raymond being the eldest. Raymond exhibited a love of architecture at a young age and pursued the passion throughout his life.

When Raymond married Mildred Glenn in 1910, the couple moved into Cairnwood and he embarked upon the ambitious project of building a medieval-style cathedral on the grounds for New Church practitioners to worship. The project took more than 14 years to complete and was dedicated in 1919, after which, Raymond turned his attention to the construction of Glencairn. Much of Pitcairn's collection of medieval Christian art, which is considered to be one of the nation's finest, served as models for the artists and craftsmen who worked on the Bryn Athyn Cathedral.

The Glencairn Collection
The 90-room, 11-story mansion's exterior is crafted from Massachusett's granite, greystone from Pennypack Creek and feldspar from New York. Approximately 8,000 objects are housed within, including an impressive collection of stained glass, of which Raymond was an avid collector.

Planning around his collection was of utmost importance to Raymond as he designed the dwelling and went to great lengths to ensure the pieces fit logically and naturally to highlight them to their utmost within the given setting.

The first thing guests will encounter upon entering is the five-story, impressive and imposing Great Hall, illuminated by the sunlight, which streams through the colorful panes of stained glass. The Hall, which once served as the family's living room, features the largest mosaic in the building with a rendering of the school seal for the Academy of the New Church, which was the Alma mater of both Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn. Medieval furniture, Persian rugs, sculptures and six, 22-foot-high, full-scale replicas of Chartres Cathedral windows remind visitors of how diminutive they seem in comparison.

One of the first rooms guests encounter

Where the family spent time, with the grandchildren putting on plays on the stage shown above.


Tour guides escort visitors to the children's bedroom, which are now art galleries and feature Medieval Christian and American Indian antiquities,along with pieces from ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, the ancient Near East, ancient Rome and Asia.

Guests will be guided to the fifth-floor chapel where the family worshiped and will view a magnificent mosaic depicting a scene from the Bible from the book of Revelation, large tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments in Hebrew and the Lord's Prayer written in Greek.

A trip to the observation tower is a must. Available to guests via elevator, the glass enclosure affords breathtaking view of the Bryn Athyn Cathedral and the Philadelphia skyline.

The observation tower


To learn more about Glencairn Museum and upcoming events, visit: http://www.glencairnmuseum.org/

NEXT UP: A Visit to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA


















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