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St. Mary's Church
Saint Mary's Basilica in Phoenix, Arizona
|Architect||Darscheid, Br. Leonard, O.F.M.; Gray, R.A., & Gallagher, George; Rifley, W.J.|
|Architectural style||Mission Revival/Spanish Colonial Revival|
|NRHP reference #||78000551|
|Added to NRHP||November 29, 1978|
Saint Mary's Basilica, officially named The Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, was founded in 1881 and staffed by the Franciscan Friars since 1895.
The current church replaced an earlier adobe church which was built in 1881. Building work on the present church began in 1902 and was completed in 1914. The church was dedicated in 1915, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places as St. Mary's Church in 1978. The oldest Roman Catholic parish church in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area, it was the only parish in Phoenix until 1924 and is home to Arizona's largest stained glass windows collection and a 26 rank pipe organ built by the Schantz Organ Company.
The church's Mission Revival-Spanish Colonial Revival structure supports four domes spanning the length of the Basilica. All the domes are compound design with the pendentives, following Roman architecture, transferring the weight of the roof to the pillars. The dome over the intercept point of the crossover, the nave center aisle and the apse, is topped with stained glass and features a lantern above the dome to emit light into the nave and sanctuary. The dome located over the altar is topped with a cupola designed to provide light to the altar. The two bell towers are topped with onion shaped domes, typical of the churches of Bavaria and Austria, where Fr. Novatus Benzing, the Pastor at the time, and Br. Leonard Darscheid, the Architectural Consultant, both originated. The towers house four bells which ring daily. The renowned Gothic-style stained glass collection was manufactured by the Emil Frei Studio of Missouri, although it is believed the work was actually subcontracted to the Franz Zettler Company of Munich. The large upper windows depict scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, while the lower nave and transept windows depict images of popular Saints of the Franciscan Order and of the heritage of the cultures represented in the community at the time (German, Spanish, Irish). Also noteworthy are the Stations of the Cross by the Andrew Kaletta Studio of St Louis. Rather than simply being painted, they are cast in high relief on a gold background which causes the figures and their detailed features to stand out prominently.
Pope John Paul II elevated St. Mary's to the rank of a minor basilica in 1985, two years before his visit to Phoenix in 1987, when he visited St. Mary's and addressed crowds of thousands from the balcony on the facade. The principal symbols of its status as a Basilica, the Tintinnabulum (large bell on a column) and the Ombrellone (Large gold and red umbrella) are displayed prominently in the sanctuary. St. Mary's became the 32nd basilica in the United States and remains the only basilica in Arizona. The church, a Phoenix Points of Pride, is located at the northeast corner of North 3rd Street and Monroe in downtown Phoenix, a carillon of the burgeoning Copper Square.
Saint Mary's Basilica is a very active parish church and center of worship for the Diocese of Phoenix. It is known for maintaining a traditional form of liturgy featuring the pipe organ, choir, men's schola and a wide range of music from traditional Gregorian chant to Renaissance polyphony and contemporary composers in its services. Beautiful liturgies rich in ceremonial and incense combined with a warm sense of inclusivity and Francisan hospitality ensure that attending the Holy Mass at the Basilica is a very moving and transcendent experience. Masses are celebrated from Monday to Friday at Noon, beginning with the singing of the Angelus, and on Sundays at 5.00 p.m. (Saturday Vigil), 9.00 a.m. and 11.00 a.m. Solemn Choral Vespers are also celebrated on Sunday evenings at 5.00 p.m. during the seasons of Advent and Lent. St. Mary's also holds Devotions to Saint Anthony of Padua on Tuesdays after the noon Mass, and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays after the noon Mass, concluding with Benediction at 2.00 p.m.
The Basilica is staffed by the Franciscan Friars of the Province of Saint Barbara, whose Coat of Arms and various symbolism can be found displayed prominently throughout the building. The Rector is The Very Rev. Michael Weldon, O.F.M., and he is assisted by the Parochial Vicars, Rev. Micah Muhlen, O.F.M. and Rev. Edward Sarrazin, O.F.M. Also in residence are Rev. Luis Baldonado, O.F.M. and Br. Scott Slattum, O.F.M. Due to the centrality of its location and its historical importance, many of the important liturgical events of the Diocese of Phoenix are split between the Basilica and the Cathedral of Saints Simon and Jude, with the Bishop of Phoenix, The Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted as the Principal Celebrant.