Visitors Guide to the
Shrine of St. Joseph
1220 North 11th Street
St. Louis, MO

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The Shrine of St. Joseph is a beautiful old historic church in downtown St. Louis and the only example of Baroque church architecture in the St. Louis area. It is also the site of the only authenticated miracle in the Midwest. The church has its beginnings when the Jesuits founded a parish to serve the German Catholic working class population living in the surrounding area in 1843.

The cornerstone for the original St. Joseph's Church was laid in 1844 on land donated by Mrs. Ann Biddle, daughter of John Mullanphy, St. Louis' first philanthropist. A substantial addition was made in 1865-66 and is often referred to as the second St. Joseph's Church. Another major addition, referred to as the third St. Joseph's, was begun in 1881 when a new fašade and twin towers were added. In 1862 a large parish school, staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame, was built nearby to care for the many children of the area.

The original church was designed in Classic Revival style by George Purvis, a St. Louis architect, and faced 11th Street and had 150-foot spire. By 1865 the structure, was judged inadequate to meet the demands of an expanding congregation. In 1866 the church was enlarged and changed to face Biddle Street and the interior was made more elaborate. A Baroque facade and twin flanking towers were added in 1881 giving the church its final dimensions and a seating capacity for 2400 worshippers. Designed by Adolphus Druiding, an architect who worked in both St. Louis and Cleveland, these last additions are in the Baroque Revival style, a 19th century revival of the European Baroque style (1600-1750), that favors of verticality, irregular shapes and highly sculptural decoration. The towers were reduced in height in 1955 due to structural weakness.

The church's true treasure is the decor of its sanctuary. Every plastered surface is covered with decorative paintings. Ceilings are painted with floral designs and the pendentiyes with various religious symbols. These designs, as all others throughout the building, are in soft, almost pastel colors set against white background. The Shrine's beautiful altar in the Italian Renaissance style was carved in wood by Bueschers in Chicago, a company renowned for its religious artwork, and installed in 1867. The Shrine's delicately carved pulpit was designed and hand cut by a Jesuit brother who was stationed at the church in its early years. Stained glass windows that are more than 150 years old grace the church.

In 1864 Ignatius Strecker was dying from an injury he incurred while working at a local soap factory. His wife attended a sermon by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, a famous Jesuit missionary on the Blessed Peter Claver, who was held to have great intercessory powers with God. Mrs. Strecker convinced her husband to seek the help of Peter Claver and he managed to drag himself to the church. He arrived just as Father Weninger was blessing the congregation with a relic of Peter Claver. Strecker was allowed him to kiss the relic and immediately seemed to experience a resurgence of strength. He began to heal and within a few days he returned to his job, and in a few months he was restored to full health. In 1887 the miracle was formally declared authentic by Cardinal Bianchi in Rome, and was chosen as one of the two required miracles in the canonization process of Peter Claver, who became a Saint the following year. A statue of Saint Peter Claver was presented to the church by the descendants of Ignatius Strecker in gratitude for the miracle he performed for Strecker.

In 1866 a massive cholera epidemic swept St. Louis killing 140 people each day. St. Joseph's Church held 10-15 funerals a day as a result of the epidemic. Father Weber, the pastor of St. Joseph's, called the parishioners together in a vow that if St. Joseph would intercede for them, they would erect a monument in his honor. The congregants pledged $4,000, a large sum for the times, for construction of the monument. No one from any family signing the pledge died from cholera, and the parish's monument of thanksgiving, the Altar of Answered Prayers, was installed in 1887.

In the late 1970s there were plans to tear down the church until a group called the Friends of St. Joseph was formed and worked to save the Shrine. Since it was formed, the group has raised thousands of dollars for a massive restoration of the building. The ongoing restoration has taken the interior from a state of advanced decay to a spectacular reflection of the Victorian era.

Visiting the Shrine of St. Joseph
     Visiting Hours
          Tours are available after Sunday Mass or by appointment
There is no charge to visit the Shrine of St. Joseph.

Location: The Shrine of St. Joseph is located in downtown St. Louis.

GPS Coordinates
N  38  38.226
W 90  11.577

Learn more about the St. Louis area.

Shrine of St. Joseph - Official site of the Shrine of St. Joseph.

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