St. Rose Priory

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St. Rose Roman Catholic Church Complex
St. Rose Chuch Winter.jpg
St. Rose Catholic Church after a snowfall the previous night.
St. Rose Priory is located in Kentucky
St. Rose Priory
St. Rose Priory is located in the US
St. Rose Priory
Nearest city Springfield, Kentucky
Coordinates 37°41′36″N 85°15′49″W / 37.69333°N 85.26361°W / 37.69333; -85.26361Coordinates: 37°41′36″N 85°15′49″W / 37.69333°N 85.26361°W / 37.69333; -85.26361
Built 1852
Architect Keely,William
Architectural style Tudor Gothic
NRHP Reference #


Added to NRHP February 14, 1978

St. Rose Priory is a house of the Dominican Order located near Springfield, Kentucky. It is the first foundation of that Order in the United States, and the first Catholic educational institution west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The land for the priory was purchased by (then) Father Edward Dominic Fenwick, O.P. (later Bishop of Cincinnati) in July 1806 with money received from an inheritance. He bought an existing farm west of Springfield, Kentucky. Construction began shortly thereafter, including a church, priory, and college. The college was begun in 1808 but the building was not finished until 1812. It was named Saint Thomas' College, after St. Thomas Aquinas. Its most famous student was Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The church was named for St. Rose. Though not designated a cathedral, the church served in the role of a cathedral until the Basilica of Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral could be built in nearby Bardstown, Kentucky. The church is in a stone Tudor-Gothic style architecture and includes an octagonal tower. The Bardstown diocese was the first diocese west of the Allegheny mountains, with its first and only bishop, Benedict Joseph Flaget as spiritual leader of that diocese. Though not the first Catholic church building in Kentucky (this honor belonged to St. Ann in nearby Springfield, a log cabin church) the church was the first brick church in Kentucky. It is sometimes referred to as a "proto-priory".

The present church interior during a Eucharistic adoration service.

A convent was added about 1822, an order of the Dominicans. Later this convent moved to another location in Washington County, Kentucky and founded Saint Catharine College.

Although Saint Thomas Aquinas College closed in 1828, the priory continued, including an education role as a seminary, novitiate, elementary and higher educational levels.

The present church of St. Rose was erected in 1854. Part of the original brick church of 1809 was preserved and is now the Eucharistic Chapel. The brick was covered with a cement mixture to blend with the limestone of the newer church.

The original St. Rose church remains, though much of the old priory buildings (including the college and old novitiate) were torn down in 1978. The grounds also include one of the original cemeteries in Washington County, Kentucky. Some graves date to the early 19th century.


  1. ^ National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 


  • Washington County, Kentucky, Bicentennial History, 1792-1992, published by Turner Publishing Company, copyright 1991 (ISBN 1-56311-014-8) Library of Congress Catalog No 90-071724

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