Sunday, March 10, 2013

Photos of Old Saint Vincent's Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri

HERE ARE PHOTOS of the old Saint Vincent de Paul Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. A part of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, this is now a chapel of ease in the historic riverfront district of that city. Dating from 1853, this English Gothic Revival church is located about 115 highway miles south of downtown Saint Louis.

Old Saint Vincent's Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - exterior front

Old Saint Vincent Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - tympanum above front door

Wood carving over the main entrance.

Old Saint Vincent Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - nave

From the church's website:
1825: Fr. John Timon, A Vincentian priest, was assigned to serve the population of Perry & Cape Girardeau counties.

July 8, 1833: Fr. Timon celebrated Mass in the first temporary church which was a warehouse of Don Louis Lorimier. It was close to the riverfront and near to the Red House, Lorimier's home.

April 30, 1838: Cornerstone of the first church was laid by Bishop Joseph Rosati, C.M. This stone structure distinctly resembled the Old Cathedral on the St. Louis riverfront.

1850: First church of native stone destroyed by a violent tornado.

1851: Within six months construction began on the present church. The stone of the original church was used for the new
foundation. The church was designed by a noted Missouri architect, Thomas Warying Walsh. The church is in the style of Renaissance architecture in which architects refer to the style of the church as English Gothic Revival.

1900: A spire of undetermined height was erected on the occasion of the golden jubilee.

1905: The spire was struck by lightning.

1912: Lightning again strikes the spires and it was destroyed by fire. The present steeple was constructed in 1912.

1926: The vestibule at the front entrance was added sometime after 1900. The shape of the church is cruciform; shape of a cross. There are nine arches intertwined in the choir loft. Architects' speculation is that the arches were designed to support the tall spire in the original design. Pews show evidence of originally having gates (doors) as well a partitions. There was a pedestal which gave evidence of a pulpit near the front of the church.

December 1977: Old St. Vincent Church was declared a Chapel of Ease. Restoration begins. It has remained a place of worship since Father Timon came to this area in 1833.

April 1982: Old St. Vincent Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

1997: Exterior and interior restoration completed.

Present: Old St. Vincent Church continues to serve the Cape Girardeau community as a Religious & Cultural Center.
Fr. Timon, the first parish priest, was a missionary along the Mississippi River and in Texas, and later became Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Saint Louis, then Apostolic Prefect of the Republic of Texas, and then Bishop of Buffalo.

The architect Walsh, who was born in Kilkenny, Ireland, and lived in Saint Louis, also designed the old Cathedral (Saints Peter and Paul) in Alton, Illinois, Du Bourg Hall and Saint Francis Xavier Church at Saint Louis University, and Saint Alphonsus Ligouri Church in Saint Louis.

These interior photos were taken in April of 2012.

Old Saint Vincent Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - sanctuary

The stained glass window in the sanctuary depicts Saint Vincent de Paul giving bread to a poor child; the inscription reads “In memory of John Pointer.”

Old Saint Vincent Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - altar

The old high altar. Deus is Latin for God.

Old Saint Vincent Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - baptismal font

Baptismal font, with sculpture depicting the baptism of Our Lord in the Jordan River by Saint John the Baptist.

Old Saint Vincent Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - statue of Saint Vincent de Paul

Statue of Saint Vincent de Paul. He was a French priest, ordained in the year of Our Lord 1600. Captured by pirates, he was sold into slavery but later assisted in the reversion of his apostate master, and succeeded in freeing himself and his fellow slaves. While he was a friend of kings and aristocrats, he worked especially with poor peasants, convicts in slave galleys, and spiritually supporting his fellow priests. He was founder of the Ladies of Charity, co-founder, with St. Louise de Marillac, of the Daughters of Charity, and founded the Congregation of the Mission.

Old Saint Vincent Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - cabinet with memorabilia

Charming memorabilia.

Old Saint Vincent's Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - exterior side

Old Saint Vincent Catholic Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - "Cape La Croix Creek" monument

This monument is near the church.
In 1699, Fathers Montigny, Davion,
and St. Cosme, French missionaries
erected a cross where this stream
entered the Mississippi and prayed
that this might be the beginning of
Christianity among the Indians.
The stream has ever since
been known as


Across the street from the church is Murtaugh Park, “named for Rev. James A. Murtaugh, C.M., commemorating his civic efforts,” and the Red House, a fairly recent building, constructed to resemble the French colonial architecture of this region, and commemorating Louis Lorimier, an early settler who set up a trading post here:

Old Red House, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA

The former B’Nai Israel Synagogue, which has an unusual Spanish-Moorish design, is located next door to the church.

William and Main Streets
Cape Girardeau, Missouri 63703


  1. Hi Mark. Beautiful photos of this beautiful Church. It was our home parish until the new St. Vincent's Church was built. We occasionally attend Mass at Old St. Vincent's and are inspired by its beauty.
    One clarification - Cape is only about 100 miles south of downtown STL. Old St. Vincent's is maybe 8-10 miles from the Cape Girardeau exit off I-55.

  2. Thanks for the correction. 180 miles is way off! Must have been tired when I typed that. I ran it through Google maps and got about 115 road miles from my regular starting point, which is the Old Cathedral in Saint Louis.

  3. Wow, this is a really beautiful church!

    Regarding the pictures of the baptismal font and the St. Vincent de Paul statue: what's with the odd, asymetrical arches on the wall behind them and the strange faces at the bottom of the long leg of each arch? Is that an English Gothic feature similar to gargoyles?


  4. Elaine, those carvings are usually called ‘grotesques’ and gargoyles are grotesques that also serve as water spouts. Typically, these can be humorous or absurd depictions of demons, strange hybrid animals called ‘chimeras’ or are caricatures of people, especially ‘beloved’ construction supervisors. While scholars debate the meaning of grotesques, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux did not like them, perhaps they rather reflect Catholicity and the joy found in the Catholic spirit.

  5. Now that we've moved from Missouri back to Ohio, there's probably not much chance of our visiting this church, so thank you for posting all the gorgeous photos. If you ever travel to the Cincinnati area, we'd be happy to take you on a tour of some of our churches and cathedrals. --- Rosemary

  6. Lovely. A church that somehow escaped the worst depredations of Vatican II.