St. Mary’s Church

While the soaring spires of St. Joseph’s and St. Anne’s dominated Calumet’s skyline, a third Catholic parish sat in relative obscurity on the city’s south-west end. Unlike its more elaborate brethren, this small sandstone structure blends quietly into it’s surroundings and even today is hardly noticed by neither locals or visitors. The single-spired church is known as St. Mary’s, and was built for the region’s Italian immigrants in 1896.

St. Mary’s – like most Calumet Churches – was built in the Gothic style. This is easily evident from its front facade which utilizes a triplet of entranceways all adorned with pointed-arches. Unlike St. Anne’s which places the bell tower off center, St. Mary’s places features a tower in a more traditional arrangement.

The central tower projects only slightly out from the front facade, and is home to the building’s main nave entrance. The stone work here along the front facade is coursed and features very little in terms of elaboration save a simple drip stone over the entrance portal.

Here’s a closer look at the drip stone element over one of the entrances.

St. Mary’s short stature eliminates the need for thick buttresses on its outer walls, opening up its nave walls for longer stretches of stone work. Like at St. Anne’s, the buildings horizontal elements are diminished by the use of a random pattern in the stonework. Unlike other churches, St. Mary’s stained glass windows are not covered by protective panels – allowing their beauty to be fully appreciated from the outside.

St. Mary’s is not laid out in a classic Cruciform shape, but does feature a set of pair of staggered transepts. This one is on the west facing wall and sits near the front of the building. The matching one from the other side is closer to the rear of the building.

Looking up at the building’s tower we can make out a very simple belfry and spire topped by a cross. The church was closed down at some point in the 60′s, when it was combined with St. Joseph’s to become the current St. Paul’s church. Its been neglected for close to half a century, which explains the poor upkeep of the building.

Just below the belfry is the church’s dedication plate carved into a smooth-faced piece of sandstone. Since this was an Italian church, the plate is written in a mix of Italian and Latin. Sta. Maria is Italian for St. Mary’s, which was Jesus’s mother. The long line of Roman numerals is the building’s build date of 1896.

As for the term D.O.M. seen on the plaque, its use is interesting. It is an acronym for the Latin phrase “Deo Optimo Maximo”. During the reign of the Roman Empire the phrase meant “To the Greatest and Best God” in reference to the king of all gods – Jupiter (or Jove). With the arrival of Christianity the phrase was altered to mean “To God, Most Good Most Great” in reference to the Christian God. The phrase is often used on Italian churches, and thus was used on St. Mary’s as well.

6 comments

  1. The correct date provided by Adam is very astute. The date on the nameplate makes no sense at all. Also, I took a photo of the cornerstone on my visit in 2006 and it appears to say: “17 OCT 1897″ – at odds with the nameplate. I received 1st holy communion there in 1951.

  2. The dedication plate is funny because it randomly fixed two languages, appears to have tried to hide another X, and failed to put up the proper Roman Numeral for 1896: MDCCCXCVI.

  3. Herb from Wisconsin

    I never knew the story behind the phrase “Deo Optimo Maximo.” Very interesting.

    These old churches are very interesting.

  4. For some reason I never noticed that Dave, its hilarious to think they didn’t just carve a new one but I’m sure the stone was expensive. For centuries more that guy’s mistake is set in stone – literally.

  5. Interesting — in that last photo, it looks like the “VI” at the end of the date is covering up an “XVI” — as if the stoneworker accidentally carved an extra “X” and had to fill it in.

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