Philip Frohman

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral
This morning I had the privilege of con-celebrating Holy Mass in a church designed by the same architect who designed the church building that helped to teach me to love God between the ages of twelve and sixteen.

Philip Frohman designed the National Cathedral on Mount St. Alban in Washington. His design employed the “pure Gothic” style.

When I was a student at St. Albans, I spent a lot of time staring up at the cathedral. I wrote poems and stories about it, including one about a cathedral janitor who begged to be allowed to go up to the roof to see the view. (The top of the cathedral tower is the highest place in Washington.) When he got up there, he realized that what he really loved was to look UP at the cathedral, not look out from it. From the roof, he could see everything else, but not the one thing he loved so much, the cathedral itself.

My father was an altarboy at the National Cathedral when he was a student at St. Albans in the 1950’s. He always loved the cathedral. My aunt and my cousin were married there.

Our Lady of the Wayside, Chaptico, Md.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Chaptico, Md.
After he designed the cathedral, Frohman converted to Catholicism. I have not been able to find any information about how his conversion came to pass. If you know anything about it, please chime in.

After he became Catholic, Frohman designed two parish churches in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. One of these parishes is under the care of a good friend of mine.

Our Lady of the Wayside church is probably about one-twentieth the size of the National Cathedral. But it possesses beautiful English Gothic touches. Being in the sacristy this morning felt like being in the Verger’s passageway in the cathedral (where I have not been in many years).

May God be praised in the beautiful buildings dedicated to His service!

Perhaps it will please God someday to have the beautiful National Cathedral finally come under the care of the Roman Catholic Church.

2 thoughts on “Philip Frohman

  1. I found your blog and post on Philip Frohman from a Google search on his name, and very much enjoyed reading this post. I have become interested in his work not only because of the National Cathedral, but because I am director of music at St. Paul’s Parish, K Street (www.saintpaulskstreet.com), which he designed. I have visited St. Ann’s on Yuma Street, which was his own parish, I believe, after he became Roman Catholic, but none of his other churches. However there are pictures online of some of them (for example, Trinity Church Morgantown WV, Heavenly Rest Ablilene TX, Christ Lutheran Baltimore)–and the familial resemblance is touching and striking.

  2. As it concerns Mr. Frohman’s conversion to Roman Catholicism… I don’t have a lot to offer, except to say that it happened when he was in his forties (the mid 1930s), and it was not the first conversion in his life. Frohman was born to a Jewish family that converted to the Protestant Episcopal Church in his early childhood. I do not know what brought about the conversion to Roman Catholicism, but will note that Frohman was not the only member of the Cathedral community to make such a change. Sculptor Frederick Hart also converted to Roman Catholicism in the midst of his Washington National Cathedral experience. The renowned writer, Tom Wolfe, wrote of Hart’s conversion… “The hot-blooded boy’s passion, as Hart developed his vision of the Creation, could not be consummated by Woman alone. He fell in love with God. For Hart, the process began with his at first purely pragmatic research into the biblical story of the Creation in the Book of Genesis. He had been baptized in the Presbyterian Church, and he was working for the Episcopal Church at the Washington National Cathedral. But by the 1970’s, neither of these proper, old-line, in-town Protestant faiths offered the strong wine a boy who was in love with God was looking for. He became a Roman Catholic and began to regard his talent as a charisma, a gift from God. He dedicated his work to the idealization of possibilities God offered man.” Perhaps Philip Frohman’s motivations were similar.

    I am publishing an article on Frohman at Washington National Cathedral, later today.

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