Saint Nicholas, Millvale

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Parish History

St. Nicholas was established as a Croatian parish in 1900.  The origin of the parish can be traced to the influx of Croatian immigrants to the area to work in local industries in the late nineteenth century.  In 1894, the first Croatian parish in the diocese, St. Nicholas in what was then the City of Allegheny, now Pittsburgh's North Side, was founded.  By the end of the century the congregation had outgrown its church.  The question as to where to build the new church led to a split in the congregation.  The pastor and the members who lived in Etna and Millvale wanted to build the new church in Millvale.  The remainder of the congregation wanted to build the church in the North Side.  Unable to find a consensus, the congregation split.  The pastor and part of the congregation purchased land in Millvale to build a church.  The rest of the congregation made arrangements to get a new pastor and purchased land in the North Side.

The first Mass in Millvale was celebrated on January 4, 1900, in a former carriage house on the property purchased for the church.  This building was used for Mass until a church could be built.  Work on the church progressed rapidly.  Ground was broken on May 22, 1900.  The cornerstone was laid on July 22, 1900, and the completed church was dedicated on November 25, 1900.

Disaster struck the church on March 26, 1921, when it was burned down in a fire.  The pastor moved Mass to the parish hall while the church was being rebuilt.  The original architect of the church was hired to draw up plans for the church and work soon began.  The rebuilt church was dedicated on May 30, 1922.

In 1937, the pastor of the church decided to renovate the interior of the church.  He hired Maximilain Vanka to paint a series of murals in the church reflecting the Croatian immigrant experience.  The initial murals were dedicated in June of 1937.  The artist added additional murals in 1941.  These murals reflected the painter's pacifist beliefs, in response to the world war then underway.  These murals make the church unique in the diocese.

As the rise of population at the end of the nineteenth century led to the creation of the parish, the loss of population at the end of the twentieth century led to its suppression.  In 1994 the two Croatian parishes named after St. Nicholas were again reunited.  The new parish also retains the name of St. Nicholas.  The Millvale church remains open and continues to serve the new parish.

Photos From the Diocesan Archive:

St. Nicholas Church, 1932
Interior of church before the murals were painted, 1932
Mural of Croatian workers offering St. Nicholas Church to the Holy Mother, 1938
Mural of the Pieta, 1938
Mural of the Crucifixion, 1938
Mural of the immigrant mother raises her son for industry, 1938
Mural of pastoral Croatia, 1938
Mural of the Croatian mother raises her sons for war, 1938
Altar of church, 2002
St. Nicholas Church, 2002

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