Bell tower of the historic Church of St. James the Less on the property of St. James School in Philadelphia

Icon of St. James the Less at St. James School in Philadelphia

Feast Day — May 1

Who is St. James the Less?

Also known as Jacobus Minor, James the Just, James the Less, James the Younger, James, son of Alphæus, James, the brother of the Lord Cousin of Jesus. Brother of Saint Jude Thaddeus.

Raised is a Jewish home of the time with all the training in Scripture and Law that was part of that life. Convert. One of the Twelve Apostles. One of the first to have visions of the risen Christ. First Bishop of Jerusalem. Met with Saint Paul the Apostle to work out Paul’s plans for evangelization. Supported the position that Gentile converts did not have to obey all Jewish religious law, though he continued to observe it himself as part of his heritage, may have been a vegetarian. A just and apostolic man known for his prayer life and devotion to the poor. Martyr.

Having been beaten to death, a club almost immediately became his symbol. This led to his patronage of fullers and pharmacists, both of whom use clubs in their professions. He is reported to have spent so much time in prayer that his knees thickened, and looked like a camel’s. Soon after the Crucifixion, James said he would fast until Christ returned; the resurrected Jesus appeared to him, and fixed a meal for James Himself.

Died martyred c.62 at Jerusalem by being thrown from a pinnacle of the Temple, then stoned and beaten with clubs, including fuller’s mallets, while praying for his attackers.



See This! Floor plan for the Church of St. James the Less


About the Church of St. James the Less

A National Historic Landmark Completed in 1846

Historic church of St. James the Less built in 1846 on the property of what is now St. James School in Allegheny West North Philadelphia

fromback_2068The building was added to the list of National Register of Historical Places in 1974 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1985. According to the National Park Service’s official Statement of Significance (as of designation, February 4, 1985): “This is the first example of the pure English Parish church style in America, and one of the best examples of a 19th-century American Gothic church for its coherence and authenticity of design. Its influence on the major architects of the Gothic Revival in the United States was profound.”

ABC_5556-church-historicThe building’s remarkable fidelity to Gothic design was accidental. When the congregation applied to its parent group in Cambridge, England, for a set of approved plans for its church, it was inadvertently sent measured drawings, prepared by G. G. Place, of St. Michael’s Church in Longstanton, Cambridgeshire, built c. 1230, which were followed in every detail under the supervision of architect John E. Carver.

DSC_0360-walking-to-churchSet on the edge of a hill, north of Mount Vernon Cemetery and east of Laurel Hill Cemetery, the setting for the church is no longer rural. West Hunting Park Avenue, a major artery, is just beyond the churchyard’s south wall, and industrial buildings lie to the west. A parish hall was built on the opposite side of West Clearfield Street.

The Wanamaker Memorial Bell Tower and mausoleum (1908), designed by John T. Windrim, houses a set of J.C. Deagan tower chimes and a chime of bells by the McShane foundry.

The church and associated school have been closed since 2006, when, after a lengthy court battle, the local Episcopal diocese assumed control of the property. St James the Less had disaffiliated from the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1999 over theological differences, and the diocese sued the parish in 2001 to seize the property. The Pennsylvania courts eventually decided that while the parish owns the property, there exists an “implied trust” in favor of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, and the congregation left.

DSC_2702-angelIn the summer of 2008, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania voted to allow St. Mark’s Church, Philadelphia, to adopt the Church of St. James the Less as a mission of St. Mark’s.

The church is currently used for the middle school students for weekly services.

Cemetery Visiting Hours

The cemetery is open to the public seven days a week from dawn to dusk. To make an appointment for a tour of the graveyard, please e-mail David Kasievich at

Church Services


Our Thursday mass is our weekly school Mass. All are welcome to join our school community for worship. The Thursday Mass follows the previous Sunday readings. Sunday’s Mass is a community mass, made of primarily neighbors and other friends. Wherever you are on your journey of faith…The Church of St. James the Less at St. James School is a community that extends the loving hand of Jesus Christ to young and old, single or married. We welcome Christians mature in their faith, those who are beginning in their faith, those who are beginning to seek God in Christ, and those questioning and unsure about their faith.  We welcome you and your experiences.  For details and information, please e-mail The Reverend Andrew Kellner, School Chaplain, at


ABC_5545-graveyard-crossNotable People Buried Here

Chapman Biddle (1822-1880)
Civil War Union Army Officer

Horace Binney (1780-1875)
US Congressman

Mark Wilkes Collet
Civil War Union Army Officer and physician

James Barnet Fry
Civil War Union Brigadier General

George Harding
Greatest US Patent Attorney of the late-19th century
Son of Jesper Harding, founder of Pennsylvania Inquirer

Henry K. Hoff
United States Navy Rear-Admiral

Agnes Irwin (1841-1914)
American educator, best known as the first dean of Radcliffe College from 1894–1909 and as the principal of the West Penn Square Seminary for Young Ladies in Philadelphia, later re-named, in her honor, The Agnes Irwin School

Robert Morris, Jr.
Civil War Union Army Officer

John Grubb Parke (1827-1900)
Civil War Union Major General

William Stevens Perry (1832-1898)
Historian, Author, President of Hobart College and second bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa

Anthony Taylor (1837-1894)
Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient

Martin Russell Thayer (1819-1906)
US Congressman for Pennsylvania, 1863 to 1867. State Court Judge in 1867

Benjamin Chew Tilghman (1821-1901)
Civil War Union Brevet Brigadier General, inventor of sandblasting

Stephen Decatur Trenchard (1818-1883)
United States Navy Rear-Admiral

John Wanamaker (1838-1922)
Businessman, founder of chain of Wanamaker’s Department Stores of Philadelphia and New York, founder of Bethany Presbyterian Church and a prominent Christian layman, and Postmaster General of the United States

(Lewis) Rodman Wanamaker (1863-1928)
son of John Wanamaker, philanthropist, artistic benefactor and patron of the Wanamaker Organ

William Halsey Wood (1855-1897)
Architect, one of four finalists in the competition for the design of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York