Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, Dyersville
Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, Church and Rectory
The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier
|Location||114 2nd St. SW, Dyersville, Iowa|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architect||Fridolin Heer and Son|
|NRHP Reference #||99001205|
|Added to NRHP||September 29, 1999|
The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier is the Catholic parish for the residents of Dyersville, Iowa. It is one of 70 basilicas in the United States. The parish is part of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The church was named in honor of the missionary Saint Francis Xavier.
The church building
It has 64 large stained glass windows. There are two notable windows in the church.
The first is the large round rose-hued window above the entrances to the church, installed in 1959. It replaced a conventional church window on which the framework had become deteriorated. An Indian motif was selected in recognition of many local Indian tribes that inhabited this area 150 years earlier.
The main altar is made of Italian marble. The Baldacchino—canopy over the main altar—was based in part on the one at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls near Rome. Mary's altar is called "The Coronation" and Joseph's is called "The Holy Family".
There are two steeples, which are 212 feet tall. The crosses are 14 feet tall. This helps make the church visible from miles away across the rolling lightly forested farmland. Pilots often use these steeples as landmarks during flights.
The church is decorated with a number of paintings and frescos. Much of this work was done by a Milwaukee area brother and sister team in the first part of the 20th century.
The second organ in the Basilica, which replaced the original one, was installed in July 1971.
This 37-rank organ is a custom made instrument designed for the Basilica by the Wicks Organ Company of Highland, Illinois. The organ was designed keeping in mind the size of the church and the acoustical qualities of the building. The pipe organ, like an orchestra, speaks with many voices. Also, like an orchestra, the beauty of the many voices depends upon the beauty of each individual voice.
Because one of the roles of the basilica is to serve as the Pope's church in the event he would visit the area, the church features a special bell, a Tintinnabulum, and umbrella, an Umbraculum. Because the Pope is not expected to visit the area in the foreseeable future, the umbrella cannot be opened all the way.
Dyersville was originally settled by English immigrants. Within a few years the English moved on. After that many German immigrants began to arrive in the area. A parish was founded in the area to serve these immigrants.
Shortly afterwards, the first Saint Francis Xavier Church was built in Dyersville, Iowa. For a number of years this church served the needs of the community. But by the 1880s, it became clear that with the increasing population of Dyersville and the surrounding area that the old church building would no longer be adequate.
A new church building was begun in the mid-1880s. The parish decided on a large Gothic architecture building in order to serve the increased population. The pastor at the time. Reverend Anton Kortenkamp (1834-1889), also had the foresight to have the altar placed upon a foundation of solid rock, which is one of the requirements for an altar to be consecrated. By 1888 the church was finished. When the building was dedicated, special trains brought people from all over the state of Iowa to witness this dedication. After the completion of the present building, the old church was converted into classrooms. It was later torn down after a new school was completed.
The move to elevate Saint Francis Xavier began in the 1940s. Then Father Hoffman, who had served in Europe began to advance the cause to Vatican officials. The cause was furthered when a high ranking German Cardinal, Konrad von Preysing, visited the church. In the mid-1950s the church building was consecrated. On the interior there are a number of small gold crosses on the side walls, marking the twelve places where the church walls were anointed with chrism when the church was consecrated. Once consecrated a church building may never be used for any other purpose and only a consecrated church can be elevated to the rank of a Basilica. Previously the parish had worked hard to attain and maintain a debt-free status, a preliminary requirement before a church can be consecrated.
In 1956 the parish was elevated to the rank of Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XII. This happened when the parish received a papal brief from the Vatican that proclaimed St. Francis Xavier as having the rank of Minor Basilica. A mass officially naming the church as a Basilica was held at a later date; this attracted crowds from all over the state, as well as many high ranking clergy.
The second organ in the Basilica, which replaced the original one, was installed in July 1971. This 37-rank organ is a custom-made instrument designed and manufactured for the Basilica by Wicks Organ Company of Highland, Illinois to replace an earlier instrument that was installed in 1915.
The organ was designed keeping in mind the size of the church and the acoustical qualities of the building. The pipe organ, like an orchestra, speaks with many voices. Also, like an orchestra, the beauty of the many voices depends upon the beauty of each individual voice.
The interior of the church was recently refurbished. The paintings and frescos were cleaned. Other frescos that were hidden under coats of paint were restored. The Baldacchino, the main altars, the side altars, and the statues were cleaned and restored. This was possible due to a gift from a parishioner. This refurbishment helped to increase the beauty of the church interior.
In the mid-1990s, the parish began to offer a Tridentine Mass at 12:00 p.m. on Sundays. This mass is either said or sung in Latin according to the 1962 Rite. This is one of three parishes in the archdiocese which offer Mass in this form, the others being St. Wenceslaus in Iowa City and St. Wenceslaus in Cedar Rapids.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, Dyersville.|
- Basilica of St. Francis Xavier - official site
- The Dyersville Chamber of Commerce
- A page on rootsweb.com with a number of photos of the Basilica