Saint Francis de Sales Seminary

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Saint Francis de Sales Seminary
MottoVos estis sal terrae
Motto in English
"You are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13a)[1]
Religious affiliation
Roman Catholic
PresidentMost Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Location, ,
Henni Hall
St Francis Seminary.jpg
Henni Hall
Location3257 S. Lake Dr.
St. Francis, Wisconsin
ArchitectVictor Schulte
NRHP reference #74000103
Added to NRHPJuly 24, 1974

Saint Francis de Sales Seminary is a seminary for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee, located in the Milwaukee suburb of St. Francis, Wisconsin. Its main building, called Henni Hall, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[2]


The seminary was dedicated to Francis de Sales, seventeenth-century Bishop and saint of the Roman Catholic Church.


The seminary was founded in 1845 in the home of Archbishop John Henni, two years after the Archdiocese was established in Milwaukee.[3] It is one of the original Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States and the oldest in continuous existence. It was founded to meet the demand for German-speaking priests in the Wisconsin Territory.

Henni Hall was dedicated on January 29, 1856[4] after a new location was chosen for the seminary along the south shore of Lake Township. The building was 4.5 stories tall, Italianate-styled, with a U-shaped floor plan. The gingerbread ornamentation was added at a later date.[5] It was expanded in 1868 and again in 1875,[6] and later renovated in 1989.[7] Christ King Chapel within Henni Hall was consecrated in June 1861 by Archbishop Henni. Archbishop Michael Heiss and Fr. Joseph Salzmann, the first two rectors, are buried beneath the chapel.[8] The seminary's Salzmann Library was erected in 1908 and now contains more than 89,000 volumes. The Miller Gymnasium, a gift from the estate of Ernest G. Miller, was dedicated in 1927.[9]

Over the past 170 years, Saint Francis de Sales Seminary has graduated over 4,000 priests and over 400 deacons and lay ministers.[citation needed] Until 1941, it had included a minor seminary component, but in that year those students were merged with the students at Pio Nino High School to form the new St. Francis de Sales Preparatory Seminary. Since 2006, the seminary once again focuses solely on priestly formation.[10]

Church land accounts for a significant portion of the City of St. Francis. On the grounds of Saint Francis de Sales Seminary is a large undeveloped area known as the Seminary Woods which hosts a small cemetery and grotto honoring Our Lady of Lourdes. Archbishop Frederick Xavier Katzer is also buried here.[11]

Forty-nine tall maple trees line the long road that leads up to Saint Francis de Sales Seminary. Planted by Austrian immigrant Siegfried Wegerbauer in the 1930s, their canopy now forms cathedral arches shading the path.[12]

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto[edit]

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto

The Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto was built by German born Paul Dobberstein while training at the seminary in 1894.[citation needed] During his studies he contracted double pneumonia and promised the Blessed Virgin Mary he would build a grotto in her honor, once he recovered. This monument can be found in Saint Francis de Sales Seminary's wooded area. It is free for anyone to view.

Standing a mere ten feet tall, this grotto was Dobberstein's first attempt at grotto building. He used the knowledge and skills gained during its construction to build other grottos in Wisconsin and Iowa, including the massive Grotto of the Redemption found in West Bend, Iowa. It is believed to have inspired Mathias Wernerus (who also attended Saint Francis de Sales Seminary) to build the Dickeyville Grotto in Dickeyville, Wisconsin in 1930 and started the grotto building movement in America.[citation needed]

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ About Us — Our Crest Archived 2016-03-19 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ "St. Francis Seminary". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2018-10-14.
  3. ^ Halcyon Days. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co. 1956. p. 25.
  4. ^ "St. Francis Seminary". Eau Claire Leader. August 3, 1904. p. 2. Retrieved November 29, 2016 – via open access
  5. ^ Donald N. Anderson (1973-12-11). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Henni Hall". National Park Service. Retrieved 2018-10-14. With two photos.
  6. ^ Diamond Jubilee of Saint Francis Seminary. Husting Printing Company. 1931. pp. 27, 29.
  7. ^ "History". Saint Francis de Sales Seminary.
  8. ^ "History". Saint Francis de Sales Seminary.
  9. ^ Diamond Jubilee. p. 73.
  10. ^ "History". Saint Francis de Sales Seminary.
  11. ^ Diamond Jubilee. p. 39.
  12. ^ Cathedral of maple boughs is an immigrant's legacy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 9, 2005.

External links[edit]