Religious Transformation: The Renaissance of Pittsburgh Churches

By: Marsha Solock Morgenstern

January 21, 2014

Imagine waking up in a former monastery, enjoying a meal in a de-sanctified church, or attending a concert in one of two music venues that were formerly churches. This can all be done in Pittsburgh, a city that has thrived by reinventing itself. Visiting these places of religious transformation offers a glimpse into the past lives of Pittsburgh churches, now reimagined and attributed an entirely new identity.


The Priory Hotel

Priory Courtyard | Religious Transformation, The Renaissance of Pittsburgh Churches

At the Priory Hotel, the outdoors is always available in their garden courtyard. © The Priory Hospitality Group


Recently named a “Top Ten Hidden Gem” by, the 42-room Priory Hotel was built in 1888 as a Benedictine monastery in the Deutschtown neighbourhood of Pittsburgh’s North Side. Now a boutique hotel, you’ll find that although its rooms appeal to modern tastes, they also retain a classic look and feel with large bathrooms and vanity areas, lots of granite, and clean lines. Theatre, museums, shopping, and dining are all nearby and a complimentary on-call shuttle is one of several amenities you can enjoy as a guest at this hotel.


Church Brew Works 

Church Brew Works | Religious Transformation, The Renaissance of Pittsburgh Churches

The original stained glass windows and church pews add to the ambiance at Church Brew Works. © Visit Pittsburgh


Located in a former Roman Catholic Church, Church Brew Works is a microbrewery and restaurant in the Lawrenceville neighbourhood of Pittsburgh. Although the church has been de-sanctified, the architectural integrity of the building remains intact. Here, you can sit in booths crafted from the church’s original pews, while admiring the vibrant stained glass, and sampling award-winning beer brewed strictly with German malts and hops. The menu here is described as “Classic American Eclectic.” It includes pierogies (traditional and untraditional), wood-fired brick oven pizza, steak, vegetarian options, and more.


Mr. Smalls Theatre  

 MrSmalls | Religious Transformation, The Renaissance of Pittsburgh Churches

Mr. Smalls Theatre, a 650 capacity performance theatre attracts local and national artists. © Mr. Small’s Funhouse

Formerly an 18th century church, Mr. Small’s Theatre is a performance theatre and standing room only music venue located in Millvale, just minutes from downtown. It has attracted bands like Rusted Root, My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and musicians such as Ryan Adams and Ziggy Marley. When you step inside, the building’s past life is apparent and it isn’t hard to be in awe of the 40-foot tall ceilings. This doesn’t impact the sound quality in any way because there are custom acoustic reinforcements throughout the theatre.


Altar Bar


Altar Bar | Religious Transformation, The Renaissance of Pittsburgh Churches

Pepper rocks the stage at the Altar Bar © Altar Bar

Converted from the old St. Elizabeth Church, the Altar Bar is a premier music venue in Pittsburgh’s historic Strip District. Its intimate setting has hosted well-known artists like Snoop Dogg and Hoodie Allen, pop newcomers such as Imagine Dragons, Neon Trees, MuteMath and Grouplove, and punk classics like Misfits, Less Than Jake, Sum 41 and Anti-Flag. Formerly the St. Elizabeth Church, this venue offers three floors that can accommodate 650 people. There are two fully-stocked bars to enjoy, a VIP lounge, spectacular acoustics, and state-of-the-art sound and lighting.


So whether you’re looking for a distinctive place to eat, sleep or listen to music, or simply if you’re an architectural buff, consider checking out some of these repurposed Pittsburgh churches next time you’re in town.


Header photo: Church Brew Works is a former Catholic church turned award-winning microbrewery and restaurant © ctj7108


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What are your thoughts on these repurposed Pittsburgh churches? Have you visited similar venues elsewhere in the world? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


Written by Marsha S. Morgenstern


Marsha Solock Morgenstern

A former Floridian, Marsha Solock Morgenstern moved to the Pittsburgh area in 2006. She enjoys the changing seasons, the friendly community, and the arts and culture Pittsburgh has to offer. In addition to freelance writing, Marsha teaches Academic Writing full-time for the University of Phoenix.

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