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Murals of the Catholic Chaplain's Office

Murals in the Catholic Chaplain's Office at Eastern State Penitentiary

 

Warden Michael Cassidy built these impressive spaces for his offices in the 1880s. Later wardens moved their offices back to the Administration Building, a safer location isolated from the inmates.

This space became the offices of the prison’s religious staff: the Protestant, Jewish, and Catholic chaplains.

Inmate Lester Smith painted 23 murals on these walls in 1955 and used the signature “Paul Martin” to honor his two favorite saints. Smith was a self-taught artist who had converted to Catholicism in prison. When Father Edwin Gallagher, the penitentiary’s Catholic Chaplain (1952-1958), witnessed Smith painting in his cell, he invited the inmate to decorate the offices where he met with and counseled inmates.

 

Murals in the Catholic Chaplain's Office at Eastern State Penitentiary

 

These remarkable and extremely fragile paintings vividly set the Catholic chaplain’s rooms apart from the rooms used by the other chaplains. Most striking and personal is the mural of the kneeling prisoner seeking absolution through his confession. These murals remain a testament to the story of one inmate who underwent a powerful change while in prison.

 

Murals in the Catholic Chaplain's Office at Eastern State Penitentiary

 

The murals suffered extensive damage during Eastern State’s period of abandonment. They were conserved in 2014 are now accessible to visitors every day.

 

Murals in the Catholic Chaplain's Office