Basilica of Saint Mary, 88 North 17th Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Basilica of Saint Mary

Address: 88 17th Street N
Neighborhood/s: Loring Park, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1907-1915
Primary Style: Beaux Arts
Historic Function: Religious/Place of worship
Current Function: Religious/Place of worship
Architect or source of design: Emmanuel Masqueray and Archbishop John Ireland
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Stone
Material of Roof: Metal

Loring Park Minneapolis Hennepin County

Basilica of Saint Mary, 88 North 17th Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.9734168° N, 93.285761° WLatitude: 44°58′24.3″N
Longitude: 93°17′8.74″W

The Basilica of Saint Mary was constructed between 1907 and 1915. It was recognized as one of the finest examples of Beaux Art architecture in the country and honored by Pope Pius XI in 1926. It has been named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The Basilica of Saint Mary is an architecture landmark housing a lively urban community. The Basilica is more than just a beautiful building; it’s committed to the growth and social well being of Minneapolis.



WHAT SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THE BASILICA? First- It exemplifies great design in architecture and engineering. Second- The Basilica played a role in the development of Minnesota’s heritage.


Length: 278’, width: 120’ Dome: 61’ square Cross: 13’ Front tower: 133’ high 22’ square Nave floor to ceiling: 75’ Sanctuary floor to dome: 138’ Cross: 13’ Ambulatories in nave: 155’ x 10’ x 20’ Sanctuary ambulatories: 62’ x 10’ x 67’


The Basilicas have their origin in pre-Christian building erected in the form of pillared halls which were used for public assemblies and administration of justice. The plan was an oblong rectangle with a central nave separated from side aisles by row of columns. The walls of the nave rested on these columns and were carried up above the roofs of the side aisles to form a clerestory pierced with windows to light to the building.

The distinction of the title “basilica” is bestowed by Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father. The title signifies that the church so honored is worthy of special veneration based on and entitled to “all the privileges and tokens of honor which pertain to Minor Basilica as of right”. The obligations relative to the status of a basilica include the highest of expectation to the education of the faithful, especially in matters liturgical. The Basilica of Saint Mary received this honor in 1926.

The Basilica of Saint Mary provides quality of liturgy, faith formation, hospitality and pastoral care. Also, it provides the emergency relief to the poor and contributes to the celebration of the sacred arts in this community.

The Basilica of Saint Mary is the vision of Archbishop John Ireland and French Architect, Emmanuel Masqueray. Archbishop Ireland educated in France and hired Masqueray to design cathedrals for his archdiocese: one in Saint Paul and one in Minneapolis. The exterior work of St. Mary was finished in 1914, and the interior work begun in 1922, was near completion when the church was named America;s first basilica by Pope Pius XI in 1926.

The Basilica was an example of Beaux Arts after the School of Fine Arts in Paris from which Masqueray was educated. This type of Modern Renaissance architecture is based on classical Roman architecture. Columns, pilasters, entablatures, and other details were applied in a novel and pleasing way characterized by finely wrought arabesques, string, and cornices of classic profile, delicate pilasters and a great profusion of surface color and ornamentation.

One of the things that always surprise people is that it looks like it’s a masonry-constructed building, but in fact it was very advanced technologically; it’s a steel and concrete interior construction. It was a building that used the latest technology but tried to capture the older look. The ceiling which covers the main nave area is made out of carved and molded plaster.


The material used in the construction of the Basilica is granite-from Minnesota quarries in the foundation, from quarries of Vermont in the superstructure. The masonry for the crypt story and foundation was done by Pike & Cook Co., with the erection of the superstructure done by the H. N. Leighton Company.


The Basilica’s stained glass windows were made in the Thomas J. Gaytee studios during the 1920s. Thomas Gaytee studied under Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York and moved to Minneapolis in 1918.

The Rose Windows- There are three rose windows, one is set in the façade and others are on either side of the transept. Each rose window consists of a central section that is 15 feet across, surrounded by 24 circular lights, 16 inches across. The outer portion of each window shows 3 rows of angels. The center of the rose window at the façade is Madonna and Child enthroned surrounded by choirs of adoring angels. The west side window represents the Immaculate Conception surrounded by adoring angels. The east side window represents the Coronation of Our Blessed Lady by the Holy Trinity.

There are 20 windows of the Clerestory contain scenes from the life of the Blessed Mother and the patroness of the Basilica. Beginning from the west side they area: the marriage of Mary to Saint Joseph, the Annunciation, the visitation of Mary and Elizabeth, the nativity of Our Lord, the adoration of the Magi, the presentation in the Temple, the Flight into Egypt, the Holy Family at Nazareth, the Finding in the Temple, the Death of Saint Joseph, the Marriage at Cana, the Meeting on the Way to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the Removal of Christ from the Cross, the Deposition, the Burial, the Return from Calvary, the Apparition of the Risen Lord to His Mother, the Descent of the Holy Spirit, and the Death of the Blessed Virgin.

The windows of the side aisles show full-sized figures of figures from the bible. The windows of the nave corners depict the Archangels who are on guard.


The Saint Joseph Chapel occupies the central space of the undercroft’s ground floor. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church, of fathers, of workers, of poor people, of a happy death, of several countries and of prayers. The art glass windows are by Michael Pilla. The chapel is used for daily Eucharist, morning prayer, small weddings, and funerals and intimate concerts.

The Reconciliation Chapels on either side of the Saint Joseph Chapel are dedicated to Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) and Augustine of Hippo (354-430). Hildegard was a physician, an abbess, a writer, an itinerant preacher, and a musician. She served the conscience of the church during the 12th century. Augustine was made the bishop of Hippo in 395. He counseled people and served poor people with kindness.

Meeting Rooms flank the Saint Joseph Chapel with natural light comes into the rooms through sections of the original undercroft windows. Each one of the rooms is named for one of the doctors of the church.


The Basilica Grade School first opened as the Pro-Cathedral School in August of 1913. Over ninety years after its doors first opened the school has remained a cherished part of our parish history. The school was closed in 1975. Today, weekdays and Saturday mornings, the Basilica School is currently leased to KIPP Stand Academy for 5th – 8th grade, a Minnesota Public School. KIPP (knowledge is power program) is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college prep public schools serving low income inner city students for success in college and in life.


Major restoration work began in early 1990 with the replacement of the original copper roof and saving the structure. From the 1940’s on, the interior suffered devastating water damage and structural demise. A $10.5 million restoration was completed in 1998. In 2000, the building was still leaking and further investigation revealed high humidity, which caused condensation and damage on interior surfaces. This included stabilizing the structure; making the building water tight by replacing the roof, tuck pointing the entire building by sealing the windows; and developing 20,000 square feet of space in the undercroft.

Mc Gough Construction and Miller Dunwiddie Architects examined the basilica and found that the areas around the windows and old caulked repairs were failing. Masonry in the attic was saturated and church walls needed to be sealed to prevent future damage.

In 2003, windows were repaired and resealed; the soft brick on the bell towers interiors were lined to prevent moisture infiltration. The restored roof is inspected annually to identify any repairs that might be needed.

Preservation of the stained glass involved: replacement of glazing putty and perimeter sealants. Installation of new clear plate glass exterior windows also needs to be considered.

Memories and stories

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