Saints John and Paul Catholic Church (Burlington, Iowa)

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Saints John and Paul Parish
St. Paul's Church in 2013
Saints John and Paul Catholic Church (Burlington, Iowa) is located in Iowa
Saints John and Paul Catholic Church (Burlington, Iowa)
40°48′28″N 91°6′31″W / 40.80778°N 91.10861°W / 40.80778; -91.10861
Location 700 Division St.
Burlington, Iowa
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic
Diocese Diocese of Davenport

Rev. Martin G. Goetz

Church of St. John the Baptist
St John Catholic Church - Burlington Iowa.jpg
The Church of St John the Baptist in 2013.
Location 712 Division Street
Burlington, Iowa
Built 1885
Architectural style Late Gothic Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 82002615 [1]
Added to NRHP February 26, 1982

Saints John and Paul Catholic Church is a parish of the Diocese of Davenport. The parish is the result of a merger between St. John the Baptist and St. Paul’s Parishes in the city of Burlington, Iowa, United States. The parish maintains both of the former parish church buildings as worship sites. The oldest of the two parishes, St. Paul’s, is located at 508 North 4th Street in downtown Burlington. St. John the Baptist is located on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and downtown at 712 Division Street, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Rev. Samuel Charles Mazzuchelli, OP

St. Paul's Church[edit]

With the establishment of the Wisconsin Territory in 1836 the town of Burlington was chosen as one of the temporary capitals of the territory. [2] With the establishment of the Iowa Territory in 1838, the town became its first capital. Bishop Mathias Loras and the Rev. Samuel Charles Mazzuchelli, OP, recognized the importance of the community. There were, however, few Catholics in the area when Mazzuchelli was dispatched to Burlington to buy land in 1839 and establish St. Paul’s Church. A small brick church building was constructed 1840-1841.[3] The building was leased to the territorial legislature for 60 days for their use. As a way to strengthen Catholicism in the area Loras chose St. Paul’s as the location for the ordination of the Rev. Anthony Godfert, whom Loras recruited from France. It was also to Burlington that Loras fled when tempers flared between the Irish and German Catholics of Dubuque. He sent St. Paul’s pastor, the Rev. John Healy—an Irish immigrant himself, to calm tensions, which he could not do.

The Burlington area was served regularly by a visiting priest after Loras left town, especially the Rev. J.A.M. Pelamourgues of St. Anthony’s in Davenport. The Rev.John Alleman, arrived in 1847. The town by then had become a hotbed for anti-Catholic, anti-clerical and nativist thinking. Many of the people who harbored these beliefs had moved to Burlington from the eastern United States where such thinking was rampant. Alleman stayed a couple of years until the arrival of the Rev. George Reffe, who started Burlington's first parochial school in St. Paul's church basement in 1849. The Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary started teaching at St. Paul’s in 1859.[4]

In the late 1880s plans were drawn for a new church by a Chicago architect James J. Egan.[5] At the same time he designed Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, and St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines. All three churches, while distinct, have many of the same features. St. Paul’s was completed in 1891 and is built in the Gothic Revival style. It is constructed of Bedford limestone and the exterior features a corner tower on the right side of the facade. The interior is a large open expanse without pillars. A large stained glass window featuring St. Paul is above the altar, and a pipe organ is located in the gallery in the back.

St. John the Baptist[edit]

St. John the Baptist parish was started in 1852 to serve the town’s growing German community. Father Reffe, who had previously been at St Paul’s, was assigned as St. John’s first pastor. A church was finished by 1856 when there were forty to fifty families in the parish.[6] A school building was completed the following year and the School Sisters of Notre Dame served as teachers. St. John's Academy was completed in 1875. The next year Bishop John Hennessey gave the pastoral care of the parish to the Jesuits. They were later followed by Benedictines from St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kansas. Priests from the Davenport Diocese started serving the parish in the 1980s.

The current St. John’s Church was built in 1885. It is constructed of brick in the Gothic Revival style. The exterior features a tall central tower with two smaller towers flanking it on either side of the facade. There are three entrances across the front of the building. The interior is divided into three naves, which are divided by pillars. A tall wooden high altar fills the apse of the church. A Eucharistic Chapel was constructed in the left side sacristy in the 1990s. An arched doorway was cut into the sanctuary wall leading to the chapel and allowing it to be visible from the main body of the church. Lights were put on the church’s 150 foot tower in 2010.[7]


The first merger of the Catholic Community in Burlington happened in the parochial schools. Both St. Paul’s and St. John’s operated parish-based high schools. Those separate operations merged in 1958 with the opening of Notre Dame High School on the city’s west side. The two parishes continued to operate their own grade schools until the late 1970s when they were consolidated. St. Paul’s School was the site for kindergarten through 4th Grade and St. John’s housed grades five through eight.[8] The school at Burlington’s third parish, St. Patrick’s, and the school at St. Mary’s in West Burlington had both closed in 1969.[9] In the 1990s a fund drive was held and a new grade school wing was added at Notre Dame. St. John's School was torn down to make room for more parking.

The number of clergy in the Davenport Diocese has declined steadily since the 1960s. Demographics and religious practice in the Burlington Community also changed. Bishop Gerald O’Keefe announced a plan in 1991 to consolidate parishes throughout the diocese, and the parishes in Burlington were part of that plan. Later in the decade both St. Paul’s and St. John’s were consolidated under the leadership of the Rev. John Hyland, who had been the pastor at St. John’s. The new parish name was a combination of the two parishes: Saints John and Paul. St. Patrick’s and St. Mary's consolidated at the same time to form their own parish.


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  2. ^ Schmidt, Madeleine M. (1981). Seasons of Growth: History of the Diocese of Davenport. Davenport, Iowa: Diocese of Davenport. p. 19. 
  3. ^ Schmidt, 63
  4. ^ Schmidt, 64
  5. ^ George P. Stauduhar was the supervising architect on the project and his papers list Egan as St. Paul's architect"George P. Stauduhar". University of Illinois. Retrieved 2012-04-26. 
  6. ^ Antrobus, Augustine M. "History of Des Moines County, Iowa (1879)". Cornell University Library. Retrieved 2012-05-24. 
  7. ^ "Church's steeple now bathed in light". Retrieved 2010-06-08. [dead link]
  8. ^ Schmidt, 266
  9. ^ Schmidt, 260

External links[edit]