Visitors Guide to the
St. Mary's of the Barrens
1811 W. St. Joseph Street
Perryville, Missouri

Accessible Parking Accessible Interpretive Exhibits Accessible Missouri Historic Site Accessible Walking Trails Accessible Religious Services Accessible Gift Shop Accessible Restrooms


The founding of St. Mary's of the Barrens, Perryville, Missouri, predates the founding of the State of Missouri by two years. In 1818 Father Joseph Rosati and a small group of Vincentian Missionaries were sent from Bardstown, Kentucky to begin a church in the area. Upon their arrival they built several small log buildings to serve as a church, sacristy, community-house, and classroom for the small settlement. The first structure built at the time of Father Rosati was a small log cabin which is still preserved under a shelter just south of the Shrine. After the appointment of Father Rosati as the first Bishop of Saint Louis he requested that a new church be built because of the growing parish at the Barrens. At his request the Vicar General in Rome sent a Vincentian Brother, Angelo Oliva, to direct the building of the new church who arrived in November, 1823. Olivia found an adequate supply of quality limestone at a site which is now the grotto at Saint Mary's. Bishop Rosati performed the ceremony of blessing and laying the cornerstone of the new church on January 1, 1827. Contributions from Europe helped local efforts to complete and consecrate the church in October, 1837. In 1823 the seminary received its charter from the Missouri Legislature to confer academic degrees, one of the first such charters issued. The seminary is the oldest institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi in the United States. It has among its graduates some of the most learned, saintly, and distinguished clergymen in the long history of the American Church, including many pioneer bishops and missionaries. The seminary was closed in 1863 and its students moved to Philadelphia. It was reopened in 1888 and many buildings were gradually added to the campus.

In 1837 a large colony of French immigrants arrived in Perry County. The south sacristy of the church was transformed into a chapel for the French immigrants. The homily was delivered in their native language and this part of the church was known as the French Chapel. The church was originally Tuscan Renaissance architecture but through the years major repairs and renovations have considerably changed its appearance. The first major alternation to the church began in 1888 when both inside and outside were redone. In 1913, the church was enlarged and the facade changed from Tuscan to Romanesque. The original towers which flanked the front door of the church were removed and the vestibule was added. During the 1913 renovation, a new church cornerstone was placed at the north comer of the church façade dated 1827 and 1913. In 1948, the church paintings and frescoes were restored by Norbert Eugene Schrader of St. Louis. A reproduction of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's well-known work, “The Assumption of the Blessed Mother." was imported and placed behind the main altar. An Angelas Bell Tower was added to the Church in 1980. The bell tower was designed in the Romanesque style to match the church facade.

Saint Mary's of the Barrens was a parish church until 1965 when a new parish church was built. Today Saint Mary's Church serves as a Marian Shrine and Vincentian Community Chapel. The Shrine of the Miraculous Medal was constructed in 1928 replacing the Chapel of Saint Vincent. The campus of St. Mary's of the Barrens contains many interesting features. The Grotto of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal was built during World War I by the seminarians. A handicapped walking trail winds its way through tree lined allee to the Grotto. The red brick construction of Rosati Hall, Thomas Smith Hall, and Oliva Hall, all seminary buildings and constructed before 1900, distinguish them from later buildings in the historic district. A Vincentian community cemetery is located on the eastern edge of the campus. This small plot is bordered by aged trees and has as its centerpiece a large brownstone cross.  The Mound of Our Lady is surrounded by a circle of ancient boxwood and native Missouri Red Cedar trees and bears a statue of the Blessed Mother. Maple trees have lined the walk to the mound for at least the past century. The Saint Joseph's Visitors Center was once the novitiate building. This 3-story white brick building functions as a visitor information center with a gift shop.

  Visiting St. Mary's Barrens
          Tuesday - Saturday: 8 am
          Sunday: 11 am
     Shrine Visitor Center & Gift Shop:
          Monday - Friday: 8:30 am - 5 pm
          Saturday - Sunday: 12 pm - 4 pm
     Regular Guided Tour Schedule:
          Monday - Friday: 10 am & 1 pm
          Saturday - Sunday: 1 pm & 3 pm

There is no charge to visit St. Mary's Barrens.
Directions: From I-55 take MO-51 (Perryville exit - No. 129) and go north toward Perryville. At the junction of State Road "T" (St. Joseph Street) turn left and go west. After passing Progress Drive, the Shrine's entrance is the third drive on the left..
  GPS Coordinates
37° 43.619'
W 89° 53.393'
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