Friday, January 19, 2007

Photos of Saint Mary's Church, in Alton, Illinois

Here are photos of Saint Mary's (Immaculate Conception) Catholic Church, in Alton, Illinois, of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. The church is about 22 road miles north of downtown Saint Louis, Missouri.

The church's cornerstone is dated 1893.

The brown exterior stone is a type I've never seen in nature or in buildings within a hundred miles of here. It is coarse, almost sandstone-looking, but very tough, in contrast to the light-colored and crumbly sandstone found hereabouts. Most dimension stone used in construction in the Saint Louis area tends to be either limestone or red granite, both of which are quarried locally. Since Alton is a major port on the Mississippi River, stone can obviously be cheaply shipped here.

According to its website, the parish is staffed by three priests and two brothers of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. The Venerable Bruno Lanteri founded the congregation in Italy; it gained Papal approval in 1827. The Congregation has only been in the United States since 1976, but now has numerous Houses and a seminary.

Steps rise inside of the entry narthex. I've only seen one other church in the area which has this feature. Actually, there is another large, level narthex just inside of these doors; which appears to be a later modification, made by partitioning the nave.

The tall nave.

According to the diocesan website, this parish has 3848 parishioners in 1625 families. There are two other parishes in the city, as well as a number of major Catholic institutions. Alton was the cathedral city of southern Illinois from 1857 to 1923, a period of tremendous growth.

The reredos behind the altar.

The tabernacle.

The crucifix.

Gates can close off the sanctuary. A correspondent tells us "That altar screen was only added in 1995, prior to that the Sancturary was not at large as it is now, the altar rail was intact and used every Mass."

Altars of Mary and Joseph flank the main altar.

The ambry in Saint Joseph's altar contains the Holy Oils

One of the consecration crosses of the church.

XIVth Station of the Cross

Window behind the choir loft.

Above the door of the school reads "Immaculate Conception Convent". It is staffed by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, the Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George, and laymen.

The view behind the school, at dusk, with the Clark Bridge in the background.

Geographically, Alton is probably the hilliest city in the region; its steep brick streets rising up from the banks of the Mississippi River are treacherous in wintertime. The view from the top of the river bluffs is stunning, and so it is the location of many gracious mansions.

Just downstream from here is the Melvin Price Lock and Dam: it creates a large slackwater pool behind it, called locally "Alton Lake", and is excellent for pleasure boating; a large new marina is located at the foot of the bridge.

The construction of the massive Clark Bridge to Saint Charles County, Missouri, was featured in the NOVA science television program "Super Bridge".

Alton was once wealthy and prosperous from trade and manufacturing, first serving the steamboats and later the railroads; its economy collapsed in the 1970s with the loss of manufacturing jobs overseas. Due to its large collection of beautiful 19th century architecture, Alton is now a tourist destination and bedroom community of Saint Louis.

Mass times:
Daily: 6:30, 8:00 a.m.
8:15 a.m. (Tuesday, Friday, during school year)
Saturday evening: 5:15 p.m.
Sunday: 6:30 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Eve of Holy Days: 5:15 p.m.
Holy Days: 6:30, 8:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, 5:15 p.m.
First Friday: 5:15 p.m.

First Fridays: 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 4:00-5:00 p.m. & 7:00-8:00 p.m.

519 East 4th Street
Alton, Illinois 62002


  1. Scott,

    That altar screen was only added in 1995, prior to that the Sancturary was not at large as it is now, the altar rail was intact and used every Mass.

  2. Marcus, what was the rationale for the altar screen to close off the sanctuary?

  3. "Marcus, what was the rationale for the altar screen to close off the sanctuary?"

    That would surely be the fatal difference in Christ's mode of presence in the reserved sacrament and the event of the eucharistic meal, and so damaging to the faith of the 'ordinary Joe'?

  4. The parish's original name is Immaculate Conception. The picture of the Immaculate Conception Convent is the convent originally built to house the School Sisters of Notre Dame out of St. Louis. The SSND's staffed the school for many years. Prior to the Oblates, the parish was staffed by diocesan priests. The current church is actually the third church built on the site. The pictures are beautiful and brought back many memories from my childhood when I lived in Alton and attended school at St. Mary's. The parish published a book containing it's history with many pictures in 1958 for it's Sesquicentennial. It is a good resource on the parish history.