Preservation of the Catholic Chaplain's Office and Its Murals

Eastern State Penitentiary



The completed Catholic Chaplain’s Office includes new signs interpreting the space and the murals. Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary.


The completed Penitent Prisoner. Conservation treatment included reattaching the detached section, removing the wax and tissue and surface dirt, and judiciously infill painting to compensate the losses and clarify the image. Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary.


Penitent Prisoner mural at Eastern State Penitentiary, conserved in October, 2013.The detached portion of the Penitent Prisoner was removed in order to save it until conservation treatment began in 2013. Photo courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary.

Eastern State Penitentiary preserved the Catholic chaplain's office, a small building separate from the cellblocks, built in the 1880s. The office is the site of 23 murals painted in 1955 by inmate Lester Smith, who converted to Catholicism in prison. The work included preservation of the building exterior as well as the addition of temperature and humidity controls, electrical upgrades, and conservation of the murals themselves. This project allowed Eastern State to open the Catholic chaplain's office to visitors for the first time, and contributes significantly to the interpretation of spiritual and religious life at the prison.