Ste. Anne de Detroit is the oldest church in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Its history goes back over 300 years. It’s a spectacular place, outside and in. I had to chance to worship quietly in there today and it was very peaceful, very soul-stirring in a restful way. I could feel God’s peace and magnificence in it.
Of course, I couldn’t resist getting some photos. More of the church’s history is found below.
State of Michigan Historical Marker, Ste. Anne de Detroit
Ste. Anne de Detroit
Ste. Anne de Detroit
Ste. Anne de Detroit, steeple
Ste. Anne de Detroit, tower/steeple
Altar, Ste. Anne de Detroit
Stained glass, St. Augustine on left, Ste. Anne de Detroit
Stained glass, Ste. Anne de Detroit
Stained glass in vestibule, Ste. Anne de Detroit
The history of this glorious church is found at its website: http://www.ste-anne.org/history.htm
On July 24, 1701, Cadillac and his people landed at Detroit. Two days later, July 26, 1701, Ste. Anne’s Feast Day, construction of the first structure began, Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church. The site was just west of what is now Jefferson and Griswold streets.
Fire swept through the settlement on October 5, 1703 destroying the church, rectory, and several other buildings. The parish’s earliest records were consumed in that fire. Even so, Ste. Anne’s today, possesses one of the longest continuous church records in the United States.
In 1714, the church was razed by the people of Fort Ponchartrain themselves, to avoid having it be used as cover by the Fox Native Americans, with whom the Fort’s soldiers were fighting. For several years Mass was said in a make-shift church in a fort building.
In 1755, the 6th Ste. Anne de Detroit was built when Father Simple Bocquet began his 27 years of service. During his time, the English invaded, but allowed religious freedom. English, Irish, and Scottish settlers arrived. First Communion classes were instituted.
Father Gabriel Richard served Ste. Anne’s as its pastor from 1802 to 1832. He founded churches, schools, co-founded the University of Michigan, was a politician, and a member of Congress. He was also a printer. He published Michigan’s first newspaper, The Observer. He imported carding and spinning wheels, and looms so women could learn a trade. He loved to talk politics – was well-read and deeply devout. He died in his 65th year, the last victim of a plague, during which he had spent himself tending the sick.
The 8th and present church is now at 1000 Ste. Anne Street (formerly 19th Street) at Howard, near the Ambassador Bridge. It’s cornerstone was laid in 1886. The church contains many relics from the 1818 stone church which stood on Bates Street. Among its treasures are: the 1818 cornerstone, the main altar, the intricately hand carved communion rail, the “Beaubien Bell” and the statue of Ste. Anne and her daughter, Mary. It also contains the oldest stained glass in the city. The church has a 26-rank pipe organ and a reverberation time typical of some of the finest European churches. Of particular interest on the exterior of the building are the flying buttresses, a feature fairly common in gothic churches in Europe, but unusual in the “new world.” Four gargoyles guard the main entrance on the north facade.
In the chapel stands the wood altar from the church built in 1818. Fr. Gabriel Richard celebrated Mass at this very altar.