Every settlement had a church serving as a focal point for life’s milestones, celebrating rites of passage and validating each event. Learn more about Minnesota history through these five historic edifices.
Cathedral of Saint Paul: 1841
239 Selby Ave.
Saint Paul, MN 55102
We owe the name of our capital city to Father Lucien Galtier, sent up the Mississippi River to the French Canadian settlement of Pig’s Eye. It was he who chose Saint Paul as patron of their first church, built in 1841, and of the surrounding community. This log chapel, located where the Hamm Building stands today, was named the first cathedral of the Diocese of Saint Paul on July 2, 1851 by Bishop Joseph Cretin.
The magnificent Cathedral on the hill overlooking downtown was thanks to the good work of Archbishop John Ireland. He selected the site in 1904 and led the effort to fulfill his dream, later officiating the first mass on Easter Sunday, 1915. The structure was finally completed in 1941 with the installation of the last two rose windows.
Saint Peter’s Church: 1853
1405 Sibley Memorial Highway
St. Paul, MN 55120
After establishing the Diocese of St. Paul, Father Lucien Galtier moved to what we know as Fort Snelling and began construction of the first Church of St. Peter, finishing it in 1842 on the bluffs overlooking the Minnesota River. The wooden structure was only 20 by 40 feet, but it did have a bell. A stone church built in 1853 incorporated the old wood structure and it serves worshippers today.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church: 1854
1 Lourdes Place
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Surprisingly, Our Lady of Lourdes was not originally a Catholic Church, but a meeting place of the First Universalist Society. French Canadians purchased the church in 1877 and were the first in the U.S. to name a church commemorating the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France. The parish added the front bell tower and three steeples in 1914. The Church stands near the spot where, in 1680, Father Louis Hennepin discovered the only natural falls on the Mississippi River, naming them after St. Anthony.
Related: Best Historical Sites In Minnesota
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity: 1858
605 N. State St.
New Ulm, MN 56073
The beautiful red brick Cathedral in New Ulm was completed in 1903 but only after much hardship and endurance. Construction on the original church dates back to 1858 by Father Franz X. Weninger. Unfortunately, New Ulm defenders destroyed the unfinished structure to prevent the Dakota Indians from using it as a barricade during the 1862 U.S. – Dakota conflict. The second structure was destroyed by a tornado in 1881. Parishioners laid the Cathedral cornerstone in 1890 and finished the building 13 years later.
The Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka: 1895
625 E. 4th St.
Winona, MN 55987
The roots of this ponderous Romanesque-style church dedicated in 1895 date back to 1871, when leaders of Winona’s Kaszubian Polish community tired of attending mass at Saint Thomas, the “Irish” church, or Saint Joseph, the “German” Catholic church. They chose to worship in their own language and built a small wooden building of their own. As the community grew rapidly, the parish chose to build this 1,800-seat copy of the churches in the mother country for an astronomical $86,000. The National Park Service published this building on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 and Pope Benedict XVI designated it a Minor Basilica in 2011.
Robin Johnson was born in Annandale, Minn. and graduated from Richfield High School and then the University of Minnesota where he studied Political Science, Business and Industrial Relations. A writer for Examiner.com, he also consults with a variety of organizations and individuals helping them develop and grow. His work can be found at Examiner.com.