Category Archives: St. Adalbert’s Cemetery

A Polish Catholic cemetery right next to the much larger South Side Cemetery, St. Adalbert’s has one grand mausoleum and a large number of interesting smaller monuments with Polish inscriptions. The southern edge slopes down into an unexpected enchanted forest of beautiful trees and evocative gravestones.

Wiktoria Bernatowicz Tombstone, St. Adalbert Cemetery

A Lithuanian tombstone in a good state of preservation. European immigrants tended to bring with them their memories of what a gravestone should look like, so we find very different styles in different ethnic groups. This is a common East European style. The East European tombstones here were often decorated in very shallow relief, much of which has vanished in a century or so of erosion; but this crucifix is still visible in outline, though the details are lost.

With the help of Google Translate, here is the inscription:

IN MEMORY OF
WIKTORIA BERNATOWICZ
BORN 1860
DIED FEBRUARY 9, 1918
ETERNAL REST

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Rustic Crucifix, St. Adalbert’s Cemetery

It is very frustrating to Father Pitt to be almost but not quite able to read the inscription on this monument. The fact that it is in Polish does not make matters easier; the fact that, while it uses the Latin alphabet, there are letters that seem to be a backwards N (like a Cyrillic И) makes it even more puzzling; but beyond those difficulties, there seem to be too many letters that are not legible at all. Perhaps they would show up in a different light.

The monument itself is striking: a crucifix in the romantic style of a rustic stump.

Here is the inscription, so that anyone who has better eyes than old Pa Pitt’s may attempt to read it, and perhaps leave a comment with a suggested interpretation:

Unidentified Woman, St. Adalbert’s Cemetery

Father Pitt cannot read the inscription, which has been almost obliterated; but although we do not know her name, we know exactly what this unidentified Polish woman looked like, because, under a thick crystal, a small photograph of her as a bride is embedded in the stone. There was probably a statue on top of the stone, but nothing remains of it.

Woodland Section, St. Adalbert’s Cemetery

Most of St. Adalbert’s is open grass with monuments, which is what the people who maintain cemeteries prefer. (Actually, they much prefer it without the monuments, which is why most cemeteries today allow only flush markers that can be mowed over with huge machines.) But one small section on the southern edge of the cemetery slopes down a delightful wooded hillside. It is maintained well enough to keep the jungle away from the monuments, but left natural enough to be indescribably picturesque.

Unknown Grave, St. Adalbert’s Cemetery

Plumbers are often called upon in Pittsburgh to make simple utilitarian constructions like railings for outdoor steps. Cast-iron pipe is strong, easy to assemble, and durable. Until today, however, Father Pitt had never seen it used for a grave marker. There is something touching about the way some poor Lithuanian or Polish family has found a way to fulfill the desire for a permanent memorial, and to Father Pitt this will always be the Tomb of the Unknown Plumber.

Note how the Selevaneis grave in the background is also outlined in iron pipe; that kind of construction is very common in St. Adalbert’s.

Miskiewicz Mausoleum, St. Adalbert’s Cemetery

There is one splendid mausoleum in St. Adalbert’s, a Polish Catholic cemetery, and it stands out not only for being the only one in the cemetery, but also for not closely resembling any other mausoleum in Pittsburgh. It looks as though it was built by Polish craftsmen who decided they could build a mausoleum as well as anybody, and went ahead to prove that they could. The result is a style that is hard to describe, so Father Pitt will go ahead and name it “Polish Ionic.”

The wooden doors are not original; as usual, the bronze doors were stolen (a fine picture of the original doors is here). One wonders how it is possible that metal recyclers ask no questions when scruffy-looking men bring in huge bronze doors on the back of a broken-down pickup. At any rate, someone deserves great credit for replacing the doors rather than simply bricking up the entrance with concrete blocks, as has been done to nearly all the mausoleums in the South Side Cemetery next door. Old Pa Pitt would not have chosen the diagonal boards, and he would have painted the doors verdigris color.

The Polish language is mysterious to Father Pitt, so he does not know what the initials Ks. Wł. stand for. There are no records for St. Adalbert’s Cemetery. According to the Carrick and Overbrook Wiki, “The caretaker, who was fired, took all the records with her and either destroyed them or kept them. She has since died and the records are gone.” That Wiki page also has pictures of the beautiful gate that was removed only a few years ago.