Photograph by Louise Feder.
Our last entry discussed Grace Kelly’s childhood in East Falls but before we move on to other sites, I wanted to devote just one more entry to the area and write about Grace’s relationship to St. Bridget’s Catholic Church of East Falls. The church was a site not only dear to her but also to the rest of the Kelly family. All Kelly children were baptized in the church, the family attended mass there every Sunday, and they donated a number of buildings to the parish for use by the priests and nuns.
Naturally, when Grace became engaged to Prince Rainier, John Kelly, Sr. assumed that the couple would get married in the local family church. After all, it was traditional at the time that weddings should take place at the bride’s family house of worship. However, after a long series of talks, it was ultimately decided that the royal wedding would be held in Monaco since, through this marriage, Grace would become the country’s princess. Getting married in her new home would show Monaco’s citizens that she was already committed to her new occupation and country.
The Monaco wedding became one of the most famous royal weddings of the 20th century. Grace’s dress, the ceremony, and the palace quickly became the topic of newspaper articles, news reels, and gossip columns the world over. But, while details of the royal wedding are common knowledge, St. Bridget’s presence at the ceremony is less well known.
Though the wedding could not take place in East Falls, Grace and the Kelly family made every effort to keep the parish of St. Bridget’s involved. Father Allen, the parish’s pastor, was flown to Monaco so that he could attend the royal wedding and, as a wedding present to the community, Margaret and John Kelly had the church ceiling painted as a replica of the cathedral in Monaco. Visitors to St. Bridget’s today can still see the amazing ceiling. Although it turns out that the Kelly’s may have inadvertently painted the ceiling in East Falls more similarly to the Princely Palace in Monaco rather than the cathedral, it remains stunning today. If you do go inside to look at the painting, I highly suggest getting permission to go up into the choir loft for the best view. From there you can see the detailed painted border up close along with painted musical instruments that represent the music made in the loft.
The church has also set up a small case filled with items related to the Kelly family. My favorite was the family photo of Princess Grace, Prince Rainer, and all three children. According to Ms. Sheehan of the East Falls Historical Society, the royal family maintained a relationship with the church and would often attend services at the parish when they were in Philadelphia visiting family. Imagine how fun it must have been for the young prince and princesses to walk into a building in Pennsylvania only to look at the ceiling and immediately be reminded of home in Monaco.
If you would like to visit St. Bridget’s in East Falls and see the Monaco-inspired ceiling you should schedule a time to go inside the church. To do so contact Cindy Barton, Parish Business Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 215-844-4126, or visit their website for more information.
Be sure to check in on the blog again soon to learn about Grace Kelly’s connection to Ocean City, New Jersey!
Can’t wait until October to see what the Michener has to offer? No problem! Visit our website to see what we have on exhibit currently, learn about memberships, programs, upcoming events, and find our hours to schedule your next trip. We hope to see you soon.
– Louise Feder, Membership and Special Events Coordinator