The Basilica of Saint Mary
July 22, 2017
The Basilica Landmark
Help preserve and restore America’s First Basilica!
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The Basilica of Saint Mary
We are located on Hennepin Avenue between 16th & 17th Streets in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Phone: 612.333.1381
A map, email contact, parking information and mailing address is also available.
Weekly Musings Blog
Our pastor and staff directors share their thoughts, insights and inspirations.
Recent Publications
· Weekly Newsletter
  January 16, 2014
· Parish Bulletin
  December 27, 2013
· BASILICA Magazine
  December 6, 2013
Today's Reading
Friday of week 15 in Ordinary Time, or...

Present and Future

Ever wonder what The Basilica of Saint Mary looked like 100 years ago?

With your help in the Partners in Preservation program we might find out!

We are thrilled to announce that American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation just named The Basilica of Saint Mary as one of the only 25 local sites selected to participate in this year’s Partners in Preservation Program. Under this initiative, we are eligible to vie for up to $125,000 in preservation funding from American Express.

The Basilica of Saint Mary is now competing in a 3 week long Facebook contest. The public will be casting votes for the places they would most like to see receive funding at the Partners in Preservation Facebook Page. The site that receives the highest number of public votes is guaranteed to receive funding. If The Basilica of Saint Mary wins, we will able to completely restore the Narthex and the Sacristy.

Your support and votes are needed. From September 20 through October 12, please follow these 5 simple steps:
1. Go to Partners in Preservation Facebook Page.
2. “Like” the page, if you haven’t already.
3. Find The Basilica of Saint Mary in the list of sites.
4. Cast your vote.
5. Repeat tomorrow!

We need your help! Please spread the word – send this message to family, friends, colleagues, everyone you know! It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s fast and we need your votes.

Please join us in Facebooking for historic preservation funds and helping protect The Basilica of Saint Mary – a Twin Cities’ treasured historical site.

Why more work on the Basilica of Saint Mary?

Major restoration work began in early 1990 with the replacement of the original copper roof and saving the structure. From the 1940's on, the interior suffered devastating water damage and structural demise. A $10.5 million restoration was completed in 1998. In 2000, the building was still leaking and further investigation revealed high humidity, which caused condensation and damage on interior surfaces.

McGough Construction and Miller Dunwiddie Architects assessed the building exterior and found that the mortar joints needed re-pointing. After thorough examination, areas around the windows and old caulked repairs were failing. Masonry in the attic was saturated and church walls needed to be sealed to prevent future damage.

In 2003, repairing the masonry was the next step in the ongoing restoration. Windows were repaired and resealed, the soft brick on the bell towers interiors were lined to prevent moisture infiltration. With these discoveries a Facilities Assessment Committee was established and created a 3 year and future preventative maintenance, restoration and renovation plan for the Basilica. The restored roof is inspected annually to identify any repairs that might be needed. Annual inspections are conducted campus wide to assess needs and set priorities and budgets.

Re-Pointing Mortar Joints

For uniformity and longevity, all masonry joints in the church were re-pointed.

  • Re-pointing, or "tuck pointing" is the removal of surface mortar to a depth that is at least twice the width of the joint or until sound mortar is found. The joint is then re-pointed with a compatible mortar.
  • Since joints on horizontal surfaces are more prone to deterioration, they are often caulked with sealant instead. To extend the life of these joints, a common practice in traditional masonry techniques is to install a lead joint insert, essentially a "tee" shape set in a bed of sealant.

Window Improvements and Maintenance

Exterior storm windows were original and actually preceded the stained glass (interior finishes were gradually added for many years after the Basilica opened). Preservation of the stained glass involved:

  • Replacement of glazing putty and perimeter sealants
  • Installation of new clear plate glass exterior windows, like the one on the rose window above the main entrance

Due to the extent of this work, new clear plate glass was added, like that on the rose window above the main entrance. These clear exterior windows have several benefits:

  • Extend the life of stained glass due to exterior cleaning and re-cementing
  • Vent airspace between the storm and stained glass windows to protect against heat build-up that can cause buckling of the stained glass
  • Allow more light through stained glass into the interior and allows stained glass to be seen from the exterior.
Interior water damage to windows »
– Basilica archives. [Close]

Basilica School

Opened prior to the church in 1912, the Basilica School was closed in 1974 after construction of the US freeway system led to decline in surrounding neighborhoods and student enrollment shrunk. Starting in late 1980s, the school was leased for 12 years to the Minneapolis School system. In 2003, they ended the lease and it was clear that clean up and safety improvements were needed. In 2003, the following improvements were made:

  • Installation of a fire-protection (sprinkler) system
  • Roof repairs
  • Cleaning and painting

Major renovation work on the Basilica will be needed in the next 5 years. Future plans include renovating the plumbing and restroom facilities, a new electrical system, and partial replacement of roof.

The Basilica School is used for the parish’s children, teen and adult religion and faith formation offerings, and for parish ministries and meetings.  Space is also currently leased to KIPP Stand Academy for 5th – 8th grade, a Minnesota public charter school.  KIPP (knowledge is power program) is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college prep public shools with a track record of serving low income inner city students for success in college and in life.  More than 80% of KIPP alumni have gone on to college.  Now in 19 states, 66 KIPP schools serve over 16,000 students nationwide.

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