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Historic Frescoes Could Help To Preserve St. Augustine Church

By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Leaders at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Old City are hoping to fund an endowment, now that the church's frescoes have been declared historic.

The Philadelphia Historical Commission has designated the wet frescoes on the ceiling of St Augustine Church historic.

The main ceiling fresco depicting Augustine in heaven. (credit: Mike DeNardo/KYW)

"They're considered to be the oldest frescoes in any religious building in the country, perhaps the hemisphere," said pastor William Waters.

Italian painter Nicola Monachesi painted the frescoes in 1848, when the church was rebuilt following anti-Catholic rioting. The frescoes (paintings directly on wet plaster) depict Augustine in heaven. Waters hopes the historic designation will spur donations to maintain the church at the foot of the Ben Franklin Bridge.

"We would like to be able to raise money, very honestly, for perpetual care. An endowment to take care of the building," Waters said.

Local historian Celeste Morello campaigned for the historic designation.

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