Sunday Service: St. Louis RC Church
Thanks for checking out the first edition of Sunday Service - a series dedicated to exploring the inside, outside and history of Buffalo's beautiful churches. Kicking it off is the "Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo", St. Louis Roman Catholic Church. Located at 35 Edward Street, this 1889 structure is heavily influenced with Gothic Revival design and is laid out in a Latin-cross floor plan. The 245-foot sandstone steeple is one of the tallest in Western New York and sports a Seth Thomas clock proudly facing Main Street. Above the steeple is a 72 foot pierced spire; the tallest open work spire ever built out of stone without reinforcement in the United States. A 1903 Kimball Organ rests inside the choir loft and is still used in ceremony to this day.
St. Louis is considered to be the "Mother Church of Buffalo" due to being the first parish established in the area. St. Louis parish was founded on January 5th 1829 through the beneficence of Louis Stephen LeCouteulx de Caumont, a French nobleman, the first resident Catholic of Buffalo and agent of the Holland Land Company. Louis gifted the land as a part of his New Years gift to Bishop Dubois of New York. Originally constructed with logs and finished in less than two years, the church was eventually replaced by a brick structure and remained in use until a fire destroyed it in 1885.
Reverend John Mertz arrived in the village of Buffalo in 1831, becoming the areas first resident priest. He set out to organize a school and led the construction of the first church located on the property. A few years later, seven men incorporated themselves into a board of trustees and assumed the affairs of the parish shortly after. In 1843, a new brick church replaced the original log church until it was destroyed by a fire in 1885. Immediately following the fire, plans to erect a grand gothic style church began. Initial donations from Rev. Joseph Sorg and Gerhard Lang helped put the project in motion. In addition, men in the parish formed the St. Louis Dramatic Circle and began producing plays in which helped fund some of the construction.
The most prominent designers, woodworkers and sculptors in the area were involved with this beautiful structure. Architectural firm Schickel and Ditmar led the overall design. Riester and Frohe designed the windows in the nave clerestory and the Royal Munich Art Institute executed the sanctuary windows depicting the life of St. Louis IX of France. At the time of the build, St. Louis R.C. Church was considered to be the grandest build in all of Western New York. During the same timeframe, Polonia builds such as St. Stanislaus were also being erected on the east side. Some argued it was just as grand, however lacked the detail and attention that St. Louis boasted. Once St. Louis was completed in 1889, the outside dimensions measured 234 feet long, 134 feet wide and 245 feet tall.
The interior boasts an impressive 275 pews that can accommodate about 2,000 people for service. A life size statue of St. Louis is surmounted in a niche above a gorgeous wooden cross on the High Alter. There are dozens of other noteworthy pieces to the interior that I cannot give proper justice to - from detailed mosaics to exquisite woodworking and marble components throughout. I recommend that you take a visit for yourself to see in person. I've visited several times in the past year and most recently one of the pastors gave me a tour after he noticed my camera with me. As we walked through, he pointed out numerous details that I missed and tied in a story to every element. With a building this rich in history and detail, this could have gone all weekend! Take a look at the website, you can get lost in all the resources and information here - I'll leave the rest for you to investigate! Most of the information in this post was sourced and paraphrased from the official St. Louis website.