The Basilica of Saint Mary
June 23, 2017
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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
Thursday of week 11 in Ordinary Time, or...


The Vision and Plan are Carried Forth

The United States in the first decade of the twentieth century was celebrating prosperity, peace, and progress. What had been an agrarian nation just a few decades earlier had now become an industrial power. Devices such as the telephone, sewing machine, typewriter, and automobile had arrived. In Minnesota, iron ore was discovered on the Mesabi Iron Range; flour milling and lumber were mainstays of the economy.

By the early years of the twentieth century, Minneapolis was a flourishing city. The Falls of St. Anthony was instrumental in establishing the city as one of the world's prominent flour-milling cities. Immigrants had been arriving in the United States from Europe in great numbers for the past two decades to escape hunger, economic depression, and political persecution. Of those who came to Minnesota, some continued on to work on the Iron Range, others went west, and many remained in St. Paul and Minneapolis. Archbishop John Ireland was a visionary and architect of a plan to bring northern Europeans to America with the lure of greater opportunity.

By the turn of the century the Immaculate Conception parish was outgrowing its second church building. Archbishop Ireland's vision included buildings: monuments to the vitality of the Catholic community in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Both cities would have great buildings: a new cathedral in St. Paul for the archdiocese, a Pro-Cathedral in Minneapolis for the thriving Catholic community. On Christmas Day 1903, Archbishop Ireland proposed plans for a pro-cathedral to members of the Immaculate Conception parish. He received the parishioners' support and fund raising began for a new building under the leadership of Rev. Thomas E. Cullen (Rector 1902–1921).

In 1905, Immaculate Conception parish member Mr. L. S. Donaldson donated land worth $45,000 for the new pro-cathedral. It would overlook Loring Park and be strategically located on what was the main thoroughfare, Hennepin Avenue, named for Father Hennepin.

Just two years after land was donated, on August 7, 1907, Archbishop Ireland is shown at the ground-breaking ceremony for the new building in the presence of the building committee and invited guests.

Decision Makers

John Ireland was born in Ireland and came to the United States when he was eleven years old. He attended the Cathedral School in St. Paul where he attracted the attention of Bishop John Cretin. Bishop Cretin sent Ireland and his brother to France for seminary training; they became the first Minnesota seminarians. Upon Ireland's return to Minnesota, he founded St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, later divided into St. Paul Seminary and the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, now the University of St. Thomas. He served as a chaplain in the American Civil War. Railroad empire builder James J. Hill, Ireland's friend and supporter, collaborated with Archbishop Ireland in many ventures. Together they planned the colonization programs to bring northern European immigrants to Minnesota to work on the new railroads, to farm, and to work as merchants and tradesmen. Ireland was the third Bishop and the first Archbishop of St. Paul.

Emmanuel Masqueray was born in France in 1861 and attended the "Ecole des Beaux Arts" of Paris. As stated in the Autumn 1996 issue of Basilica Magazine, "Masqueray became dedicated to the Beaux-Arts principles of proper design: truth, beauty, and goodness." An internationally famed architect, he was chosen to be the chief architect and designer of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Archbishop Ireland met Masqueray at the Fair and was impressed with his work; a bond was established. Archbishop Ireland invited Masqueray to Minnesota to collaborate with him on his grand plan to build the great new cathedral in St. Paul and the pro-cathedral in Minneapolis. Masqueray and Ireland were both inspired by the magnificent French cathedrals; we inherit the legacy of their visions.

© Building the Pro-Cathedral of Saint Mary: 1907-1913 »
– Photo from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis archives. [Close]
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