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St. Mary of Victories Church

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Title: St. Mary of Victories Church  
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Subject: Landmarks of St. Louis, Nerinx Hall High School, Christian Brothers College High School, Fontbonne University
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St. Mary of Victories Church

St. Mary of Victories Church
St. Mary of Victories Church is located in Missouri
St. Mary of Victories Church
Location 744 S. 3rd St., St. Louis, Missouri
Area less than one acre
Built 1843
Architect George I. Barnett and Franz Saler
Architectural style Mannerist
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 80004510[1]
Added to NRHP August 28, 1980

The Church of St. Mary of Victories is a historic Roman Catholic church in downtown St. Louis, Missouri in the Chouteau's Landing Historic District south of the Gateway Arch. It was established in 1843, and was the second Catholic Church to be built in the city. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


The church was built to serve the needs of about 500 families who had emigrated from Germany. It is located in the hub of the pioneer "Chouteau's Landing" District, one of the early commercial and residential neighborhoods where the German immigrants settled in pre-Civil War era St. Louis. It took its name from a noted feast day proclaimed by Pope St. Pius V to celebrate the victory of the Christian Navy over Islamic forces in the Battle of Lepanto, off the coast of Italy in the Adriatic Sea in 1571. The church is also a consecrated church (1866) at the direction of Pope Pius IX. It also has an indulgenced High Altar (where hundreds of relics of saints are entombed) bestowed by Pope Leo XIII in the late 19th century.

St. Mary's served as the first ethnic parish and spiritual home to the German Roman Catholic population of the city for the next century. It also provided a temporary home to a small community of Lebanese immigrants in the 20th-century, who went on to found a church in their own--present-day St. Raymond Maronite Cathedral in LaSalle Park neighborhood. St. Raymond's is now the Cathedral for the Maronite Eparchy west of the Mississippi River in the USA. Its former Archbishop, Most. Rev. Robert J. Shaheen, built the present St. Raymond's Cathedral under his pastoral administration.

The 1950s saw the departure from the city of a large number of the families whose German ancestors had worshiped there. They were replaced by a large community of refugees from Hungary after World War II and the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. They gave new life to the parish, which became unofficially called the "Hungarian Church" (Hungarian: Magyar Templom).

The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It is also a consecrated Roman Catholic church; that is, the Vatican has bestowed the consecration privilege on the church itself by Pope Pius IX, performed with a specific ritual by St. Louis Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick in 1866. Archbishop Kenrick anointed each of the interior walls of the church with chrism oil per the consecration ritual, and today, brass wall cross sconces (candleholders) are displayed on the walls noting the consecration locations. While all Catholic churches are blessed, only a few in a diocese are consecrated, and it assures the church may only be used for Roman Catholic worship and for no other purpose. The main altar of the church also has an Indulgence attached to it by Pope Leo XIII in 1896, granting temporal remission of sins at the time of death for those Catholics saying the specific prayers, and dying in the state of grace.


Mannerist style. The nave is rectangular and, with the transept, forms a cross with the sanctuary at its head. The choir loft is located on the second tier of the two-tier balcony at the rear of the church. Its ornate wooden-carved organ case and stenciled display pipes are among the oldest in St. Louis.

Eight tall stained-glass windows with rounded frames grace the nave and the transept, complementing the high arch of the sanctuary. The Egyptian-style doorway to the church is framed by two massive pillars that hold up the heavy wooden cross above the entrance.

The interior of St. Mary of Victories is also remarkable as the first interior in a St. Louis church whose design was based upon liturgical studies. It was developed and constructed by Max Schneiderhahn, the city's first professional church artist. Himself a German immigrant, Schneiderhahn studied at a German university and two monasteries, bringing the craftsmanship tradition of liturgical art to the St. Louis area. The altars, statuary, steepled baptismal font, communion rail, carvings and frescoes were all conceived and executed by Schneiderhahn, who also painted the Stations of the Cross.

Historic connections

It was in St. Mary of Victories that the Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R., made his Missouri preaching debut. Together with his Redemptorist companions, Fathers Schneider, Jacob and Gulielm, Seelos preached a parish mission in German from the first to fifteenth of October 1865.

In 1872, five women came to St. Louis from Germany, under the leadership of religious congregation under the name of the Sisters of St. Mary, taking their name from the church.[2] The healing and therapeutic ministry of their Order continues in today's SSM HEALTH CARE SYSTEMS, a St. Louis-based hospital/nursing organization which operates hospitals and medical care facilities throughout the Midwest and the Mid-South.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places.  
  2. ^ Franciscan Sisters of Mary "Heritage"

External source

  • St. Mary of the Victories Church
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