The Basilica of Saint Mary
May 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
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  January 16, 2014
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  December 27, 2013
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  December 6, 2013
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Monday of the 6th week of Eastertide, or...

1910s

The Building's Exterior Is Completed

In the second decade of the twentieth century, more Americans were benefiting from mass-produced goods. The automobile was sharing more of the road with the horse, and industrialization and modernization were continuing to clash with traditional ways. Labor unrest, women's suffrage, progressive education, and the socialist call to overthrow capitalism were some of the struggles facing the nation.

Minneapolis had a new and beautiful church by 1914; the Pro-Cathedral's exterior was completed just six years after the laying of the cornerstone. According to architectural historian Carol Frenning, the Basilica of Saint Mary is one of the area's finest examples of Beaux Arts architecture. She states in her interview for Voices from a Landmark, "One of the main tenets of Beaux Arts architecture is that a building should follow its program; it should look like what it is." And the Basilica does.

The finest materials were used to build the Pro-Cathedral. One example is the choice of exterior stone, described in the Catholic Bulletin's special edition of May 30, 1914 honoring the new Pro-Cathedral. Effects of weather on the stone were considered, as well as its ability to hold up over time. After pondering alternatives, planners chose a stone known as Bethel White Granite that comes from a world-renowned quarry in Vermont.

In 1913 the new Pro-Cathedral School opened. The new parochial school was located at the rear of the Pro-Cathedral campus on Laurel Avenue and Sixteenth Street. The three-story building was built of cream colored brick with terra cotta trim.

On May 31, 1914, the first Mass was celebrated in the new Pro-Cathedral. The new church was still quite bare inside, with plain glass windows, concrete walls, and wooden altar.

On August 15, 1915, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Pro-Cathedral was dedicated and, like many of the famous Gothic cathedrals of France, it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In the stained glass windows and in carvings of stone and plaster there are many references to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Fleur-de-lis, Mystical Rose, Pierced Heart, Pomegranate, Dove, Sun, Lofty Cedar, and Tower of David are some of the many symbols of Mary found throughout the church.

© The interior in 1914 »
Note the original alter, the raw, unfinished wall, wooden communion railing, temporary light fixture, and the absence of stained glass windows. The only interior furnishings that remain today are the pews. – Photo from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis archives. [Close]

Late in this decade, when the initial period of dedications and celebrations for work well done came to an end, the parish was called upon to help in a different way. Archbishop Ireland had challenged the congregation to "be to us, more by far than a noble monument of granite and marble." It was not long before the people of the parish began to fulfill the meaning of those words in another great cause: supporting their country's war efforts. President Wilson, with his declaration of war on Germany in April 1917, ended American isolationism. Minnesota contributed many men and women to serve in World War I to "make the world safe for democracy." The many who stayed home also contributed significantly to the effort. The Red Cross organized a center for war work in the new Pro-Cathedral School. Women knitted, sewed, and sent care packages. The people bought Liberty Bonds, contributed to the War Chest, and participated in conservation programs. Further work on the Pro-Cathedral came to a halt, and parishioners made do with the simple temporary altar for another seven years.

Archbishop John Ireland died in 1918; Archbishop Austin Dowling succeeded him.

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