Visiting Prince Gallitzin’s Crypt in Cambria County

Entrance to Prince Gallitzin's crypt in front of Saint Michael's Church in Loretto, PA.

Prince Gallitzin’s crypt in Cambria County contains the remains of a former Russian prince turned trailblazing Catholic priest, Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin.

Demetrius Gallitzin historical marker near his crypt at the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel.
Demetrius Gallitzin historical marker near his crypt at the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel.

Born the son of the Russian ambassador to France and Holland, Gallitzin came to the United States when he was 22 years old, entered the Catholic priesthood under an assumed name (Augustine Smith), and essentially gave up his chance to live as a Russian aristocrat to become a frontier priest in America.

Prince Gallitzin's crypt at Saint Michael's Church in Loretto.
Prince Gallitzin’s crypt at Saint Michael’s Church in Loretto.

Prince Gallitzin Founds Loretto

In 1799, Gallitzin founded Loretto, the only English-speaking Catholic settlement west of Baltimore, and named his church in honor of Saint Michael the Archangel.

The Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
The Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.

For 41 years, Prince Gallitzin traveled the Allegheny Mountains, living in poverty, performing his duties as a Catholic priest, and building up the Catholic community in the area.

Standing in front of the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto, Pennsylvania.
Standing in front of the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.

Gallitzin Spring

One of Gallitzin’s favorite places to stop on his travels was a spring along what is today old Route 22.

Gallitzin Spring along old Route 22 in Cambria County, Pennsylvania.
Gallitzin Spring along old Route 22 in Cambria County.

That roadside spring is now called Gallitzin Spring in his honor.

Gallitzin Spring historical marker along old Route 22 in Cambria County, PA.
Gallitzin Spring historical marker along old Route 22 in Cambria County.

Prince Gallitzin’s Crypt

 Father Gallitzin ministered dutifully until the end of his life, and died at Loretto on May 6, 1840, at age 69.

Statue of Prince Gallitzin, paid for by former Loretto resident Charles Schwab.
Statue of Prince Gallitzin, paid for by former Loretto resident Charles Schwab.

He was buried, according to his wishes, in a simple grave midway between his residence and the church.

Prince Gallitzin's crypt in the foreground, and the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel in the background.
Prince Gallitzin’s crypt in the foreground, and the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel in the background.

 In 1899, on the centennial of the founding of Loretto, Father Gallitzin’s gravesite was capped by a pedestal of granite and a bronze statue, donated by former Loretto resident Charles M. Schwab, who also paid for the construction of the large stone church that stands there today.

Inscription on Prince Gallitzin statue on top of crypt.
Inscription on Prince Gallitzin statue on top of crypt.

Prince Gallitzin’s remains were taken from a decayed wooden coffin and placed in a cast iron casket, which is visible today in the crypt beneath the statute and marble slabs.

The low passageway leading to Prince Gallitzin's crypt.
The low passageway leading to Prince Gallitzin’s crypt.

There are 5 steps leading down to the crypt, and you must crouch/kneel (fittingly) to reach the coffin.

The cast iron vault containing the remains of Prince Gallitzin.
The cast iron vault containing the remains of Prince Gallitzin.

The faithful routinely leave prayer requests on Prince Gallitzin’s coffin, and in 2005 Gallitzin was named a Servant of God, the first step on the path to possible sainthood.

Prayer requests left on the iron vault containing Prince Gallitzin's remains.
Prayer requests left on the iron vault containing Prince Gallitzin’s remains.

Directions to Prince Gallitzin’s Crypt and Gallitzin Spring

Saint Michael’s Church and Prince Gallitzin’s crypt are located at 321 Saint Mary Street, Loretto, PA 15940.

Prince Gallitzin's crypt in Cambria County, PA.
Prince Gallitzin’s crypt in Cambria County, PA.

Gallitzin Spring is located approximately 13 miles from Loretto along old Route 22, at GPS coordinates 40.446139, -78.525790.

Map to Prince Gallitzin's crypt and Gallitzin Spring in Cambria County, PA.
Map to Prince Gallitzin’s crypt and Gallitzin Spring in Cambria County.

Nearby Attractions

The Admiral Peary Monument in Cambria County honors U.S. Naval officer Robert Peary, a Cresson native credited with being the first explorer to reach the North Pole.

Close-up of the Admiral Peary Monument, portraying him in his fur parka.
Close-up of the Admiral Peary Monument, portraying him in his fur parka.

The Gallitzin Tunnels are a trio of historic railroad tunnels through the Allegheny Mountains in the small town of Gallitzin, named in honor of Prince Gallitzin.

A westbound Norfolk-Southern train exiting the western portal of the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.
A westbound Norfolk-Southern train exiting the western portal of the Allegheny Tunnel in Gallitzin.

In conjunction with the Gallitzin tunnels, the World Famous Horseshoe Curve allowed trains to cross back and forth over the steep Allegheny Mountains, something that had been impossible before 1854.

A young railfan waves to a passin Norfolk Southern engineer at the Horseshoe Curve.
A young railfan waves to a passin Norfolk Southern engineer at the Horseshoe Curve.

The Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum in Blair County celebrates the lives of both railroad workers and railroading communities in central Pennsylvania.

Exterior of the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum in Blair County Pennsylvania.
The Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum.

Fans of all things old, abandoned, and slightly creepy will find the abandoned Cresson State Prison in Cambria County a thrill to explore!

Razorwire and Tudor-style architecture at the former Cresson STate Prison in Cambria County.
Razorwire and Tudor-style architecture at the former Cresson State Prison in Cambria County.

The Johnstown Flood National Memorial honors the more than 2,200 lives lost and the thousands more injured in the Johnstown Flood of May 31, 1889.

Johnstown Flood National Memorial sign near the visitor center.
Johnstown Flood National Memorial sign near the Visitor Center.

The Johnstown Flood Museum in downtown Johnstown also tells the story of the 1889 flood, but from a slightly different perspective and with different artifacts, exhibits, and an award-winning film of its own.

Valley of Death exhibit at the Johnstown Flood Museum.
Valley of Death exhibit at the Johnstown Flood Museum.

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Rusty Glessner is a professional photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.

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