HERE ARE PHOTOS of Saint Joseph Church, located in the village of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, which is a parish of the Diocese of Belleville. One of the oldest parishes in the region, dating back to 1721, in the oldest surviving settlement in Illinois, this church is located on the flood plain of the Mississippi River in Randolph County, about 47 road miles south of downtown Saint Louis.
Saint Joseph church has its roots in the royal church of Saint Anne, founded in 1721, at the French colonial Fort de Chartres, located about 3-½ miles to the west of here. At the time, this was the territory of the Diocese of Santiago de Cuba, and the parish was staffed by Fr. Joseph Ignatius le Boullenger (a polyglot missionary who wrote a catechism in the Illinois language) and Fr. Joseph François de Kereben (later Superior of the Louisiana missions) of the Society of Jesus. A list of parish pastors can be found here. Originally a chapel of ease of Saint Anne’s, a log chapel was built at what is now the church’s cemetery, less than a half mile to the south of the present church, and was replaced at least once by a larger log church. A new stone church was begun there in 1851, but work was abandoned due to flooding. The cornerstone of the current church was laid in 1858, on higher ground, and the church was expanded in 1925, and its interior was renovated later.
Another chapel of ease of Saint Anne’s parish was built at Saint Phillipe, and was called Our Lady of the Visitation, which was destroyed by flooding in 1765. This also severely damaged Saint Anne’s church. Saint Joseph became the parish church sometime about 1767, when this region was under British rule.
A history of Prairie du Rocher, and Saint Joseph’s, dating from 1942, can be found here. A history from 1972 is here, from which was adapted the history on the parish’s website here.
The church is named after the foster-father of Our Lord, patron of the Universal Church, of fathers, of carpenters, of social justice, of a happy death, and of New France. The town was originally called “La Belle Prairie du Rocher” which is French for “The Beautiful Meadow of the Rock” and is named after the tall limestone bluffs above it, and for the vast grassy lowlands upon which it sits. This region remains a beautiful and interesting place to visit.
The interior is rather curious, particularly with the arch located in front of the pews but at a considerable distance from the sanctuary. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The tabernacle is located to the left in a niche, and the baptismal font is located in a symmetrical position on the right, with devotional statues placed at the far opposite sides.
The tabernacle is nicely decorated with a worthy setting, with various Christological and Eucharistic symbols.
The Pièta and Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Paraclete — from the Greek word for the Holy Spirt.
This style of faceted stained glass, which uses large, thick chunks of broken glass, dates from the early 1950s and was used extensively until about the mid-1960s. These kinds of windows are exceptionally difficult to photograph well. The colors you see here are not particularly accurate — they are more saturated in color than can be shown on a computer monitor.
Spare Your People.
A quilt showing the history of the parish is displayed in the back of the church.
802 Middle Street
Prairie du Rocher, Illinois 62277