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Basilica of St. Josaphat - National Fund For Sacred Places
2016 Cohort

Basilica of St. Josaphat

(Roman Catholic)

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee became the third basilica in the United States and contains the country’s second steel dome structure, constructed shortly after the U.S. Capitol dome.

 

Basilica of St. Josaphat by Sulfur at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Basilica of St. Josaphat by Sulfur at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

2016 Cohort

Basilica of St. Josaphat

(Roman Catholic)

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee became the third basilica in the United States and contains the country’s second steel dome structure, constructed shortly after the U.S. Capitol dome.

The congregation was founded in 1888 by Polish immigrants who settled in Milwaukee to escape religious persecution and forced conscription. Although originally an offshoot of the first urban Polish congregation in Milwaukee and the United States, St. Josaphat Parish became the largest Polish congregation in Wisconsin. After occupying two other churches, the congregation commissioned German-born architect Erhard Brielmaier to design a new church. Brielmaier used St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City as inspiration and incorporated materials salvaged from the demolished Chicago Post Office & Custom House in his design. The church, which congregants helped construct, received its basilica status in 1929. According to the congregation, “the Basilica epitomizes the striving of early Polish immigrants to express their ethnic heritage, spiritual devotion, and patriotic pride by building impressive houses of worship.”

Today, the Basilica of St. Josaphat focuses its outreach on a weekly English as a second language program and St. Vincent de Paul Society food pantry that serves the entire community. The church also sponsors an elementary school and hosts performances by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, university and high school choirs, and other music groups. Volunteers lead tours and educational presentations on the Basilica’s history, art, and architecture.

A National Fund grant of $250,000 with over $620,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation allowed the Basilica of St. Josaphat to complete a facade restoration. Work addressed safety concerns and ongoing deterioration through repointing masonry; replacing deteriorated wood sills and trim; patching limestone; and repairing copper roofing, flashing, and gutters. After witnessing the project from start to finish, a congregant commented that the church is now “cognizant of how much care the Basilica requires in order to sustain her standing as a jewel and Beacon of Hope to our parishioners, the Milwaukee community, and visitors from around the world.”

Iconic Architectural Styles at Sacred Places

The architectural style of a sacred place represents the people, the denomination, and the culture that resides within. From an Indigenous-designed iconostasis, to an innovative Pueblo Revival-style sanctuary, to the largest copper dome in the world, the following churches are emblematic of unique regional and denominational architectural styles across the country, and demonstrate the breadth of architectural wonders represented within and preserved through the National Fund for Sacred Places.

Basilica of St. Joseph by Hitzeman Photography

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez