PITTSTON — For Jan Lokuta, Pittston, the north end of Wilkes-Barre and other municipalities can be seen as “a museum of ecclesiastical architecture.”
An upcoming tour will give everyone else a chance to get a firsthand look at that architecture and the history behind it.
The Annual Tour of Historic Churches of Greater Pittston will shed light on some of Pittston’s history that might have gone unnoticed over the years. Lokuta, the organizer for the event, noticed that much of the city’s history was being ignored during River Fest in 2001. He decided to get involved to highlight the “cultural legacy” along with the artistic architectural legacy that was getting less attention.
“The idea was to highlight the church architecture, the history and the cultural legacy of those churches as a way of highlighting what Pittston had to offer,” he said.
This year’s tour starts at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 22 at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church on Williams Street. The tour will lead participants on a short walk to the site of the former Temple Agudath. Lokuta said the building underwent renovations in the 1950s or 1960s.
Initially modeled after a synagogue in Vienna, Austria, the building now has a modern facade and serves as a traditionalist Catholic church.
The second stop will be the Jewish Cemetery in West Pittston that once served congregations of Exeter, Duryea and Pittston. Lokuta said the grounds still serve as a burial place for members of the Jewish faith.
The final stop of the tour will lead participants to a place that was recently rediscovered by the Greater Pittston Historical Society. Lokuta said the society cleared the Pittston Cemetery of underbrush that had grown up and found a burial ground.
“In cleaning the cemetery, they revealed a Jewish burial ground within the cemetery,” Lokuta said.
Last year’s tour visited St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church and the Italian Christian Church.
A look at predecessors
Though time has altered religious institutions, Lokuta sees them as a way to look back at different dynamics of the community. That examination extends further than just Pittston.
“If you look at the ecclesiastical architecture … you get examples that range from the Byzantine to the Gothic,” he said.
Architectural differences provide a unique glimpse into the history of the area. Lokuta said each architectural difference also sheds light on the different groups of people that used to live and worship in the area.
He said the “high point” of Italian architecture, for example, was Romanesque. Other high points Lokuta referred to included Baroque from the late Renaissance period and Byzantine from Eastern Europe.
Lokuta hopes to showcase those different art styles, as well as the “cultural legacy” of the area.
“If you look at the ecclesiastical architecture … you get examples that range from the Byzantine to the Gothic,” he said. “What these different cultures did is they brought the high point, and they reproduced them in a place like Pittston,” Lokuta said.