Visitors Guide to
Old St. Ferdinand's Shrine
1 Rue St. Francois
Florissant, MO

Accessible Parking Accessible Picnic Facilities Nearby Accessible Interpretive Exhibits Accessible Missouri Historic Site

Old St. Ferdinand’s Shrine is one of the few remaining traces of St. Louis’ Spanish past and is at the site of one of the earliest European settlements west of the Mississippi. Early settlers in the area were French farmers and fur trappers who were attracted to the fertile valley they called “Fleurissant,” which means “flowering” or “flourishing.” It is believed that the village was settled around 1764, the same time that St. Louis was founded. When the land was transferred to the Spanish the settlement was renamed “San Fernando.”  A log church was built in 1788 on land given to the village by the King of Spain. The St. Ferdinand parish was established in 1789 and a second log church was built in 1792 four blocks from where the current church is located. This log church served the community until the original portion of the existing church was constructed.

A convent was built in 1819 and Mass was said in its chapel for the first time on Christmas Eve of that year. It is considered one of the best examples in brick of the Federal style architecture in the state. St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart lived in the convent from 1819 to 1827 and from 1834 to 1840. This order, whose primary focus is on girls' education, was founded in France in 1800 and is restricted to women only. Mother Duchesne is considered the founder of the American branch of the order. In 1825 she established the first Indian school for girls in the United States. In 1818 Mother Duchesne founded the first free school west of the Mississippi in nearby St. Charles. The Catholic Church beatified Mother Duchesne in 1940 as the fourth saint in the United States. She was canonized a saint July 3, 1988. One end of an upstairs room in the convent is now furnished as a schoolroom as it might have been when Mother Duchesne taught there.

The cornerstone for the Church, a gift of Mother Duchesne, was laid in February of 1821. The rear section is the oldest part of this brick building, which was built contiguous with the convent in the Federal style. Visitors will notice once they enter inside, that most of the Church is constructed of logs, with only the exterior and front section of the building constructed of bricks. During the pastorate of Father Hayden (1877-1884) the church was enlarged to its present size, its steeple was built and the stained glass windows installed, giving the building its present Italianate Romanesque appearance. In 1958 the church lost its parish status and its name was changed to Old St. Ferdinand’s Shrine to distinguish it from the new church. The church is the oldest standing church in all of the Louisiana Purchase Territory and is thought to be the oldest Catholic Church between the Mississippi and the Rockies.

 In 1823 the church was served by the Jesuits who established a seminary at the Bishop’s Farm, now St. Stanislaus. In 1827 Father Peter DeSmet, later known as "Black Robe" to the Indians he served through his missionary work, was ordained at St. Ferdinand. He would later turn St. Louis into the "missionary gateway to the West." In 1846 the Religious of Sacred Heart left St. Ferdinand and the following year the Sisters of Loretto were appointed to the parish. In 1880, the same year that the church was enlarged, the nuns opened the New Loretto Academy. St. Ferdinand’s School was built in 1888 was built to educate the children of the growing parish. The second floor was added slightly later and is a classic example of the Missouri German style with its segmented arched windows and ornate cornice. The brick Rectory, built in 1842, in the Federal style was originally built as a one story chapel for the Ladies of the Sacred Heart. It was later enlarged to two stories and now serves as a museum. A replica of the original log church is on display in the museum as is a collection of items from the early days of the village of St. Ferdinand, including silver religious items from the 1700's and a collection of dolls in nuns' habits. While Mother Duchesne is known to have had her own similar collection, this one is of a later vintage.

In 1959 the Friends of Old St. Ferdinand Shrine was formed to save the church and the adjacent buildings from being torn down by the diocese. The group raised enough funds to purchase the complex a few years later. In 1960 the St. Louis Archdiocese designated St. Ferdinand as a Shrine and in 1979 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Friends of Old St. Ferdinand, Inc. purchased the shrine complex and own, maintain, preserve and protect this valuable jewel. A number of special events are held at the Shrine throughout the year including a historical encampment of the St. Ferdinand de Fleurissant Territory in April, the Valley of the Flowers Festival in May, the Florissant Old Town Festival in October, a feast day mass for Sister Rose Philippine Duchesne in November, and a Christmas concert in December.

Visiting Old St. Ferdinand's Shrine
     Visiting Hours
Sunday: 1-4 pm, April through December or by appointment year round.
There is no charge to visit Old St. Ferdinand's Shrine, although donations are appreciated.
Guided group tours are $2 per person, lunch can be included for groups of 12 or more at $10 per person (includes both the tour and lunch.

Location: Old St. Ferdinand's Shrine is located in Florissant, MO, a suburb northwest of St. Louis.
From downtown, take I-70 West to I-170 North. Take I-170 North a short distance to the North Hanley Road exit. Take Hanley Road north about two and a half miles. Hanley will become Graham and then St. Ferdinand. Shortly after the road turns into St. Ferdinand it intersects with Rue St. Francois. Turn left on Rue St. Francois and go one block to the Shrine.

Learn more about the St. Louis area.

Old St. Ferdinand's Shrine - Official site of Old St. Ferdinand's Shrine.

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