The following is a brief outline of Trinity’s splendid past. For more information, docent tours are available on Sunday after the 10:30 a.m. Eucharist or during the week by appointment.  Please contact the office at or call 412-232-6404.

October 1787 — Land given by heirs of William Penn. Recorded in Westmoreland County, the ground was originally used by Native Americans, the French at Fort Duquesne, and British at Fort Pitt, as a burial ground. Three lots were included in deeds to the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, including a burying ground (1.5 lots given to each group). There were originally 4,000 graves, and over 2,000 have been identified. Although the deed does not name Trinity, the trustees chosen to receive the land were the ones who were active in the creation of Trinity. John Ormsby, one of the trustees, had been recorded as a lay reader at Fort Pitt as early as 1762.

The Round Church

1805 — Charter given for Trinity. Until this point, although they owned the present land, they had been meeting in homes and on the second floor of the courthouse on Market Square. They had procured the services of The Rev. John Taylor as the first rector (who was also a founder of the University of Pittsburgh), and bought a triangular piece of land on Sixth Ave. and Liberty (now the site of the Wood Street subway station). The first church was octagonal and was known as “The Round Church.” Trinity soon became the center for development of parishes in the area.

Trinity Church in 1825

1825 — The congregation had outgrown its current facilities, and the rector, The Rev. John Henry Hopkins (who was a lawyer, architect, and priest), designed a Gothic structure to be erected on the site of the present church. It was brick, covered with stucco to look like stone. There was a long chancel with galleries on both sides. A spire was built with a clock, for which subscriptions were collected from the public. Bishop William White, the first Bishop of Pennsylvania, consecrated the new Trinity Church in 1825.

1865 — The creation of the Diocese of Pittsburgh with The Rt. Rev. John Kerfoot as the first Bishop. It then included all of western Pennsylvania. In 1910, the Diocese of Erie was formed with the northwestern churches. The Bishop’s chair is carved in oak, with the seal of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in needlepoint on the cushion.

1869 — It appears that Trinity was too small for the congregations, and a new church was planned.

1872_edited1872 — Completion of the new church, a stone building with spire and clock, built in the architectural style called English Gothic. The spire is 200 feet tall. Columns and piers of arches are all made of red Massillon sandstone. Interior wood is white butternut or walnut. The original church pews, of hand-carved white mahogany, are still in use. Floors are of Minton’s Encaustic tiles. The chancel ceiling is ultra-marine blue, decorated in gold. The chancel is paneled with richly carved wood.

1922 — The marble pulpit was exquisitely carved with figures of the four Evangelists interspersed with early rectors of Trinity.

Bishop Alexander Mann

1927 — Trinity Church became Trinity Cathedral. A new charter was issued, and, as a Cathedral, changes were made in the governing of the church from that of a parish church. A Cathedral is under a corporation, made up of lay and clergy delegates, who control the property. A Cathedral Chapter is responsible for the government and administration of the affairs of the church. The Bishop is the President of the corporation, and the priest in charge of the Cathedral–known as a Dean–is the Vice President. The Dean appoints assistants, known as Canons.

Trinity’s charter requires that Morning and Evening Prayer be offered daily for all time to come. This has been done faithfully, even during the 1936 flood, the 1950 snowfall, and the fire of 1967. A noon service of Holy Communion is also offered daily.


1967b_edited1967a_edited1967 — A disastrous fire swept through the church. As a result, it was decided to modernize the church. The location of the altar was changed from under the three windows at the rear of the chancel, making a free-standing altar and placing the choir and the organ to the rear. New windows replaced the side ones destroyed by the fire. A 14-foot suspended cross, made of steel, glass, and aluminum (in honor of Pittsburgh’s major industries), was installed above the new altar.

1990 — The antiphonal organ, a new four-manual console, was built for Trinity’s organ, and in 1991, the West division was added to the instrument (dedicated to Canon Alfred Hamer).

2003 — The Flag Project The Cathedral, in partnership with the Diocese of Pittsburgh, began the display of many world flags. These flags are symbolic of the global mission to which all the Episcopal churches of Southwestern Pennsylvania are committed.

2006 — Burial Ground renovations will begin in the summer of 2006 with surveying and finalization of design plans, with the hope of beginning stone removal, demolition, and regrading by October.