Update: This church was damaged by fire on August 16th, 2007, and reopened in Spring, 2009.
Here is a view of the church, looking up Grand Boulevard, just north of Saint Louis University; the light of the rising and setting sun dramatically illuminates the 237 foot tall spire.
The church at dusk. These two night photos were taken on December 22nd, 2006; the others on June 24th, 2007.
The nave of this large church. These interior photos were taken with multiple, long camera exposure times, so worshipers who moved are blurred!
A correspondent invited me to attend the anniversary commemoration for this church; on June 24th, a 3-½ hour long Mass with devotions commemorated the 140th anniversary of the church.
The Redemptorists came to the Archdiocese in 1865, built this church starting in 1867, and have staffed it ever since. Present at the Mass was the Superior-General of the Redemptorists, the Very Reverend Joseph Tobin, who resides in Rome, Italy, and is a native of Detroit, Michigan.
The old high altar. The church was renovated in 1990, with the typical "horizontal" elements of that era.
The high altar; the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in its tabernacle, as well as in the former baptistery.
According to a parish history:
In 1861 Archbishop Peter Kenrick invited the Redemptorists to establish a presence in St. Louis... When the Redemptorists arrived a few years later with a total of $3.00 among them, the Archbishop allowed them to occupy his own rectory at the Cathedral (now the Old Cathedral), where he continued to use the parlor and the office. It was there, in 1865, that they began to take care of the parish of St. Louis, King of France. Although the cathedral parish was not their own, the Redemptorists worked hard to revive it. A major drawback was the lack of a real neighborhood, just schools, businesses and a hospital. Another hardship was the ministry to the sick during the middle of St. Louis' second cholera epidemic in seventeen years. During this three month epidemic over 3500 St. Louisans died, but none of the Redemptorists were harmed.Originally a mission church, this became a regular parish in 1881. The tower was completed in 1894. Some architectural work was done by the architect Thomas Walsh and the firm of Conradi and Schrader of Saint Louis.
The Redemptorist Congregation had sent some of their best to St. Louis, men who were up to the task. Among them was Father Louis Dold, the superior, who would later be the priest/architect who planned the "Rock" church, thereby saving one-fourth of its cost. There was Father Egidius Smulders, a tireless worker who preached missions from Buffalo, NY to New Orleans, LA. Finally, there was Father Ferreol Girardey, who had been a parish priest, missionary and author and who would one day serve as provincial of the St. Louis Province. Two Redemptorist brothers, Jacques and Peter, accompanied the priests. It was Brother Peter, along with Brother Martin and later reinforced by Brother Augustine, who a few years later dug the foundations for St. Alphonsus Liguori "Rock" Church...
On May 1, 1867 ground was broken for the new church, and on November 3rd of that same year, the cornerstone was put in place and blessed by Father Joseph Melchers, Vicar General of the archdiocese. The church was officially named for St. Alphonsus, the sainted founder of the Redemptorist Congregation. However, the construction workers who built the church and the rock wall that surrounds it gave it the nickname "Rock Church." The structure was occupied in an unfinished condition on November 30, 1868 and dedicated in early August 1872 by [Coadjutor] Archbishop Patrick Ryan...
Father Dold is one of several famous Belgian missionaries to the Rome of the West. According to one history:
Louis Dold : Mons, 1821 - Philadelphie 29 décembre 1882.
il prit l'habit à Saint-Trond le 5 oct. 1850 et arriva à New York le 19 mars 1851. Il prononça ses voeux à Cumberland le 8 décembre 1851 Il fut ensuite un des fondateurs de la mission des Rédemptoristes aux Antilles. En 1862, il fut de nouveaux envoyé aux Etats-Unis. Il fut professeur au scolasticat de Cumberland, supérieur à Pittsburg et à Saint-Louis
According to the 2007 census, this church has approximately 998 parishioners, but attracts many from outside of its boundaries, including students and faculty from the nearby Saint Louis University.
Originally built by Germans, the church was largely attended by Irish in the early years, and is largely attended by those of African descent today: both Gregorian Chant and Gospel are heard here.
The church has a ministry to the deaf, which has existed in the Archdiocese since 1837.
The south transept houses the large Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, constructed in 1892, which enshrines a copy of this famous Byzantine icon. It does not portray a modest virgin with downcast eyes, but instead Mary looks directly at the viewer, with a sorrowful expression.
In 1866, the Redemptorists took custody of the icon, and built a new church in Rome to house it (replacing one destroyed by revolutionaries) and soon afterward, sent copies of this icon worldwide; that same year, they founded this church in Saint Louis.
The traditional 'Our Mother of Perpetual Help' devotions on Tuesdays, started in this church in 1922, and is now observed throughout the world.
According to Wikipedia, the Redemptorists, also known as the
Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Latin: Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris – C.Ss.R or CSSR) is a Roman Catholic missionary order founded in 1732 by Saint Alphonsus Liguori at Scala, near Amalfi, Italy for the purpose of labouring among the neglected country people in the neighbourhood of Naples.Saint Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de' Liguori is a Doctor of the Universal Church; some of his writings are here.
Who knows? Perhaps if God had given us greater talent, better health, a more personable appearance, we might have lost our souls! Great talent and knowledge have caused many to be puffed up with the idea of their own importance and, in their pride, they have despised others. How easily those who have these gifts fall into grave danger to their salvation! How many on account of physical beauty or robust health have plunged headlong into a life of debauchery! How many, on the contrary, who, by reason of poverty, infirmity or physical deformity, have become saints and have saved their souls, who, given health, wealth or physical attractiveness had else lost their souls! Let us then be content with what God has given us. “But one thing is necessary,” and it is not beauty, not health, not talent. It is the salvation of our immortal souls.— from Uniformity with God's Will
PRAY FOR US
The Wicks pipe organ, made in 1934.
The baptistery is now used as a confessional and Blessed Sacrament chapel, and is named in honor of the Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R, who visited the construction site of this church.
Exterior of the baptistery; note that it has the traditional eight sides. The symbolism of the number eight is thus: Genesis tells us that God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and rested on the seventh; Easter is the 'eighth' day, of rebirth and a new creation. Baptism brings us into this rebirth, by drowning the old self, and putting on the new self of Christ.
Decorative arches outside of the church.
Beside the front doors are images of the kings of men, of all races.
The sign over the door reads 'Redemptorist Fathers'.
The Redemptorist residence.
ST. ALPHONSUS LIGUORI
"ROCK" CATHOLIC CHURCH
Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help
1118 N. Grand Boulevard, St. Louis, Mo. 63106