Landmark Cathederal Remains, In Spite of Anti-Catholic Sentiment

Home Education Landmark Lesson Landmark Cathederal Remains, In Spite of Anti-Catholic Sentiment

Landmark Cathederal Remains, In Spite of Anti-Catholic Sentiment

Using the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul as a landmark, students will analyze the structure as the primary source for learning about its significance.  The lesson will combine writing, art, and historical context.

Students will be able to situate the landmark within its historical context using primary documents such as the US Constitution, lithographs, photos, letters and journal entries.  Students also will be able to see that the building is testimony to the idea of freedom of religion and freedom of speech guaranteed by said Constitution, despite anti-Catholic sentiment prevalent in the 1800s, and, even in some parts, today.  


Philadelphia , PA

Type of Landmark



19th century
Arts and Culture

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to understand the difference between a primary and secondary source.
  • Students will be able to analyze data from text sources as well as digital images in order to draw conclusions posed by research questions. 
  • Students will be able to determine if the event influenced design and location of the landmark, by using primary sources to prove the point.
  • Students will develop an understanding of pertinent vocabulary by demonstrating in written and oral presentations correct use of said vocabulary.  Students will use vocabulary to create topic specific glossaries.
  • Students will be able to write a narrative piece based on their conclusions, and will be able to create a game to be used as an assessment tool.


  • I-pads to access primary sources online, if available. Otherwise teacher will show document on Smartboard/screen to whole class.
  • KWL chart (create one in copybooks.) 
  • June 10, 1844 letter between the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and government authorities in Pennsylvania, as transcribed by Valerie Daskilewicz.
  • Diary entry by Bishop Kenrick about anti-Catholic rioting
  • Letter between Catholic officials discussing the building of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul
  • Pastoral letter commissioning the Cathedral
  • Kensington riot lithograph
  • Activity and discussion worksheet
  • Large post-it sheets for recording pertinent information and keeping on display.

Suggested Instructional Procedures

1) Using classroom ipads, have students locate online and read the first amendment of the Bill of Rights to set the stage that freedom of religion was guaranteed by the Constitution.

2) Using Google images, project an image of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul for students to view.  Have students view image for one minute, then ask the following questions:  What do you see?  What do you think? What do you wonder?   Have students jot down their responses in their copybooks.

3) Then show image again, and ask: What do they know about the Cathedral? What would they like to learn about the Cathedral?   In copybooks create a K-W-L chart in order to begin listing possible questions the students might have about the landmark.  (These will become starting points for research as well as the questions posed by teacher.) 

4) Pose the following questions for research:   What is its historical importance?  Did an historical event impact its design?  Does this building provide evidence of the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom?  Will a primary document provide information to substantiate our claim of impact on design and give testimony to freedom of religion in our country?

5) Have students look at images of Kensington riots 1844 at the Free Library site and at  Preface the viewing by letting the students know the historical context of the image. At the library site, click on term digital collections , then click on Historical Images of Philadelphia, then click on the word search, then type in topic.  Newspaper engravings from 1844 will open. By following this link, lithograph images at will open showing the burning of churches and homes. Engage students in a discussion about what might be happening in the images. Ask, what do they see, what do they think, what do they wonder. Ask students if they were in the scene how might they be feeling?  Have them select someone in the image and ask what that person might be thinking or feelingAsk if there is evidence of religious tolerance or not.   Ask: “looking at these images of the riots and of the Cathedral, do you think one triggered the design of the other, why or why not?

6) A recorder should list responses to above questions on a large sheet of colored post it paper. (Be sure students know difference between Native Americans as used here and Native Americans as a reference to American Indians.)

7) Students will then read excerpts from Bishop Kenrick’s diary referring to the riots, PA Governor Porter’s letter of compassion to Bishop Kenrick regarding the event.

8) Break students into small groups.  Give each group a website where they can read excerpts about the riots.  Use,,, for the excerpts.

9) Students will keep a running list of facts and will write them on Post-it sheets for class reference.  This collection of facts will serve for the final assessment activity.

10) Have students read Bishop Kenrick’s pastoral letter commissioning the new Cathedral.  Ask if there is any evidence of the riots impacting the design.  Accept all theories and propositions.  Use the discussion question sheet to keep the conversation going.  Then, follow this link to get the accepted version of how and why the Cathedral came to be.  All the while, students will be asked to explain the difference between the primary and the secondary source.

11) Each cooperative group will take one person or event closely related to the topic and will create an encyclopedia page to be bound together with the glossary.  The page will include text as well as an image/illustration of the related person, or event. 

12) In other lessons, students may learn about the architecture and art of the building, and they can read passages online related to the events surrounding the Cathedral’s construction and impact on the city of Philadelphia. 



Archdiocese: A level of organization within the catholic church. Headed by an Archbishop, in the modern era an Archdiocese typically manages the catholic churches within the area of a large city in the United States, or all of the catholic churches within a county of the United States.

Basilica: A large oblong hall with double colonnades and a semicircular apse, used in ancient Rome as a court of law.

Brownstone: A type of house within a city, typically made out of Brownstone.

Cathedral: A place of worship for the Catholic church, associated with a bishop.. Typically built on a large scale with very ornate decoration to express their faith.

Citizenship: Being a full member of the society of a nation state. This membership has benefits and obligations. Benefits include the protection of the nation state against threats from other nation states and other communities within the society of the nation state. Obligations include participating in the political processes of the state, voting, paying taxes, etc.

Corinthian Columns: Ornate columns of Greek origin with decorative tops and bottoms.

Encyclopedia: A book or a sets of books giving general information on many subjects. Typically organized alphabetically giving each subject a short article.

Façade: The principal front of a building that looks onto a street.

Immigration: The act of permanently moving to a new country.

Militia: A voluntary group of armed people, designed to protect their community from internal and external threats. They can also aid in the relief efforts after a disaster has struck their community.

Municipality: A city or town government.

Nativist: A person who favors the native inhabitants of a society as opposed to immigrants.

Palladian Style: A style of archeticture inspired by Venetian architect Andrea Palladio. His designs were based off of the temples of Ancient Greece and Rome.

Roman-Corinthian Style: A style of column based on classical Roman and Greek examples.

Symmetrical: Having sides or halves that are the same.

Tolerance: A general willingness to accept beliefs that are different from your own.

Secular: Matters that are separate from religion.

Primary Source: A document or account that was written or expressed sometime in the historical past.

Secondary Source-  An historical interpretation written about past events. Typically includes the use of primary source evidence to support their interpretation.

End of Lesson Assessment

Once students have accumulated facts about the history of the Cathedral, the principal players, and the architecture, the cooperative groups will be asked to create a board game that must include three to five facts for each of these categories: architecture, artists/important people related to the building, Catholic history, Philadelphia history, and use of founding documents, i.e. Bill of Rights, photos, etcetera, as primary sources.

They will be graded as follows:  20-22 points per category, depending on number of facts, e.g. 3 facts = 20 points, 4 facts = 21 points, etc.  10 points will be awarded for creativity, 8 points for technique/structure of game, 6 points for neatness, 4 points for spelling, all totaling 100. Bonus points will be given for being on time.  Students will be given time to explain game play and then time to try it.