The missions to half of the United States started HERE, at the Saint Stanislaus Seminary, of the Society of Jesus, in Florissant, Missouri, about 20 highway miles northwest of downtown Saint Louis. The Jesuits left in 1971, and this is now the Pentecostal Gateway College of Evangelism.
This is the Old Rock Building, built by hand by the Jesuits seminarians and brothers out of rock they cut themselves from the bluffs overlooking the nearby Missouri River. It replaced an earlier log structure. In its earlier days, this seminary of 999 acres was self-supporting, like the monasteries of old. This was one of the first seminaries west of the Mississippi River.
The school that was to become the seminary was founded in 1823 by eight Belgian Jesuits, at the encouragement of Bishop Louis DuBourg of the Diocese of Louisiana and the Two Floridas, and U.S. President James Monroe. The missionaries built a log school for Indian children, and 17 years later opened the seminary.
This was the home base of Father Pierre De Smet, who traveled 200,000 miles on foot, mule, and boat, and made 19 ocean crossings in his missionary journeys.
Thousands of Jesuits lived and studied in these buildings.
This covered walkway is an example of the excellent detail found in classic Catholic buildings.
The imposing chapel.
Detail of the pediment of the chapel, showing the popular motto of the Society of Jesus " AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM" ("for the greater glory of God").
This little hill, the Memorial Mound, is an Indian burial mound and was also the Jesuit cemetery for the entire Missouri Province. Some remains and the tombstones were removed in 2002, the remains going to Calvary Cemetery in Saint Louis. Father Pierre De Smet was buried here; but only a few fragments of his skeleton were recovered. Most of the Jesuits were reinterred in a mass grave. The mound has not been fully excavated.
An old mausoleum on the grounds. Above the doorway is the Angelic Salutation.
The chaos in the culture following the Second Vatican Council led to the quick demise of the seminary. The combination of sexual libertinism, changing catechesis and liturgy, psychological experimentation, and great wealth, killed vocations.
The Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions, at Saint Louis University, opened in 2003: http://www.sjweb.info/world/museum_west_missions/index.cfm
An archive web site describing the Museum of the Western Jesuit Missions, that used to be housed in the Old Rock Building: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/jesuit/mwjm.htm
More photos of the Collection: http://www.geocities.com/davidjsuwalsky/
[UPDATE: see the newer article on the Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions.]
Map of location