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Iconic Detroit Building of the Week: Old St. Mary's Church

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Photos via <a href="http://oldstmarysdetroit.com/"> Old St. Mary's Church</a>
Photos via Old St. Mary's Church

Pope Francis is here. Well, not "here" here, just in the country. Nevertheless, Curbed Detroit has pope fever, at least when it came to selecting this week's Iconic Detroit Building. Of course. we would have gotten around to Old St. Mary's, but the pope's visit makes the choice a little bit easier.

Building: Old St. Mary's Church
Facts: St. Mary's Church in Greektown has a number of truly awe-inspiring features. Its grottos include statues of the blessed virgin and Jesus. The cruciform frescoes on the ceiling run the entire length of the nave. The statues surrounding the altar depict Hungary's patron saints, Stephen and Elizabeth. Old St Mary's is the third oldest Catholic Church in Detroit. Originally a modest church whose parishioners were German immigrants, the original 1841 building cost just $239 in materials.

Columns: Ten granite columns line the nave, dividing the pews from the aisles. The massive, polished columns each came from just a single slab of granite and had been commissioned for the state capitol building. When the state declined to include the columns, the church got a steal on them, buying all ten for just $4,625.


Architect: The church was designed by a parishioner, Peter Dederichs Jr, whose other work included the nearby Grimm Jewelry Store and several other churches on the National Register of Historic Places, including another Detroit house of worship, St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church (1919). Dederichs also designed the the the grotto at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish on Gratiot. According to Old St. Mary's website, Dederich's design included elements of both Pisan Romanesque and Venetian Renaissance architecture. Construction on the building finished in 1885, and the grand total for this beautiful piece of late 19th century art was $81,210.53—roughly $2 million in 2015 dollars.


Recent events: This spring, Detroit Mass Mob, a group that chooses one Catholic church a month and uses social media to crowd-source parishioners to fill the pews for a Sunday, chose Old St. Mary's. Archbishop Allen Vigneron celebrated mass, delivering his homily to a standing-room only crowd. The next Mass Mob takes place October 11 at the noon service of Transfiguration Church.
Upcoming events: Old St. Mary's will celebrate its 12th Annual Homecoming Sunday, Oct 4, 2015 during noon mass. The event is open to "past, present and future parishioners," and includes mass, followed by a social get-together with food and refreshments in a tent in the church's parking lot.


Note: Is there a great building you'd like to see featured? Send photographs and ideas to rebecca@curbed.com for inclusion in upcoming entries in this series.

·Old St. Mary's [Old St. Mary's Church]
·The Art of Building: The Grimm Jewelry Store [The Henry Ford Museum]
·The Art of Building [The Henry Ford Museum]
·Inflation Calculator [Dave Manuel]
·Detroit Mass Mob packs Old St. Mary's Church [Detroit News]
·Schedule [Detroit Mass Mob]