Pittsburgh shrines included in '100 Things to Do'

Even the most loyal, born-and-bred Pittsburghers probably haven’t seen everything the Steel City has to offer. Local journalist Rossilynne Culgan has compiled a must-see list of attractions in a book, “100 Things to Do in Pittsburgh Before You Die.”

“One hundred seems like a lot,” Culgan said, “but when I got down to writing it, it really was not. I found things that would be accessible to everyone and I wanted to highlight as many neighborhoods as possible.”

Culgan, a 2010 Penn State graduate who currently works as director of TheIncline.com, had already developed her own list of Pittsburgh experiences but curated submissions from family, friends and social media to fill out the 144-page book.

The things to do include traditional Pittsburgh favorites like riding the inclines to the Mount Washington neighborhood and eating a Primanti Bros. sandwich. Culgan also includes two landmarks of the Diocese of Pittsburgh: St. Anthony Chapel in Pittsburgh’s Troy Hill neighborhood and St. Nicholas Church in Millvale.

Both historic churches are part of the new Shrines of Pittsburgh grouping, established in May by Bishop David Zubik.

St. Anthony Chapel features the largest collection of relics available for public veneration in the world. With an assortment of 5,000 bone fragments and other relics from saints, the total collection is second only to the Vatican.

Culgan, who toured the Vatican several years ago, said she was unaware of the full detail of St. Anthony Chapel. It was constructed in 1880 under the direction of Father Suitbert Mollinger, who wanted to preserve his personal collection of relics. Dedication of the chapel was June 13, 1883, as thousands of people came to be blessed by Father Mollinger and venerate a relic of St. Anthony. Even today, the St. Anthony relic is the most venerated in the chapel.

Other relics are housed in reliquaries located in cases and side altars. Another impressive display in the chapel are the nearly life-size Stations of the Cross representing Jesus’ march to crucifixion.

“I really enjoyed walking through there,” she said. “I was in awe. It was like I was back in Rome.”

Seeing the Maxo Vanko murals at St. Nicholas has always been on Culgan’s personal bucket list. She knew about the Croatian history of the church and the history lesson told with the 25 murals. Above the altar is the centerpiece of the artwork, a large painting of Mary, Queen of Croatians with the child Jesus. The other murals show in solemn detail the often harsh lives of Croatian immigrants.

“They were interesting works of art because of their religious significance, but also because of the way some of them depict life in Pittsburgh from way back when,” Culgan said. She visited the church by herself several months ago and plans on taking out-of-town family soon.

Father Nicholas Vaskov, the newly-appointed diocesan director of shrines, is pleased to be included in a secular guidebook of his hometown. The Shrines of Pittsburgh grouping also includes Most Holy Name of Jesus Church in Troy Hill, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Polish Hill, and St. Patrick and St. Stanislaus Kostka churches in the Strip District.

“There is so much opportunity to promote (the churches) as places of pilgrimage and prayer,” he said. “We want to share these gifts, these treasures.”

Culgan is also sure to include so many other churches throughout the six-county diocese with item No. 10 on the things-to-do list: “catch some fish fry fare.”

This is actually the second edition of the book. Reedy Press, which publishes similar books in other cities, likes to keep things fresh and up-to-date, Culgan said. There are new things to do in this edition, and everything is rewritten by Culgan. She dedicated the book to “the friendly people of Pittsburgh — past, present and future — who are stronger than steel and have hearts of gold (actually, black and gold).”

“There really is something for everyone in Pittsburgh,” Culgan said. “The book is designed to give tourists an idea of what to expect in our city, but also for the people who have lived here their whole lives. I hope it inspires people to get out and explore something new.”

For information about Culgan and her book, visit 100thingspittsburgh.com. There are four upcoming book signings, including Friday, Aug. 16, at Palate Partners School of Wine and Spirits in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood from 5:30-7:30 p.m.