Basilica of St. Francis Xavier

From Academic Kids

The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, .
The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, Dyersville, Iowa.

The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier is the Catholic parish for the residents of Dyersville, Iowa. It is one of only 52 basilicas in the United States, and the only one outside a metropolitan area. The parish is part of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The church was named in honor of the missionary Saint Francis Xavier.


The Church Building

The Basilica features Gothic architecture. This includes columns with vaulted ceilings. The church has a seating capacity of about 1100 people. There are about 5000 people total in the parish.

It has 64 stained glass windows. There are two notable windows in the church. The first is the rose window above the entrances to the church. In the early 1970s a window featuring a Native American design was placed there after the previous window had begun to fall apart. Another window features Saint Francis Xavier ministering to the Indians. The maker of the window had mistakenly used images of Native Americans instead of images of people from India.

The main altar is of Italian marble. The Baldacchino - canopy over the main altar - was based in part on the one at Saint Peter's in Rome. The two side altars are both made of carved butternut wood with gold highlights.

The Rose Window
The Rose Window

There are two steeples which are both over 200 feet tall. The crosses are 14 feet tall. This helps make the church visible from several miles away. Pilots often use these steeples as landmarks during flights.

The church is decorated with a number of paintings and frescos. Much of this work was done by a Milwaukee area brother and sister team in the first part of the 20th century.

Because one of the roles of the Basilica is to serve as the Pope's church in the event he would visit the area, the church features a special Bell and Umbrella. Because the Pope is not expected to visit the area in the foreseeable future, the Umbrella cannot be opened all the way.


Dyersville was originally settled by English immigrants. Within a few years the English moved on. After that many German immigrants began to arrive in the area. A parish was founded in the area to serve these immigrants.

Shortly afterwards, the first Saint Francis Xavier Church was built in Dyersville, Iowa. For a number of years this church served the needs of the community. But by the 1880s, it became clear that with the increasing population of Dyersville and the surrounding area that the old church building would no longer be adequate.

The Main Altar
The Main Altar

A new church building was begun in the mid-1880s. The parish decided on a large Gothic architecture building in order to serve the increased population. The pastor at the time also had the foresight to have the altar placed upon a foundation of solid rock, which is one of the requirements for a church to be elevated to a Basilica. By 1888 the church was finished. When the building was dedicated, special trains brought people from all over the state of Iowa to witness this dedication. After the completion of the present building, the old church was converted into classrooms. It was later torn down after a new school was completed.

The move to elevate Saint Francis Xavier began in the 1940s. Then Father Hoffman, who had served in Europe began to advance the cause to Vatican officials. The cause was furthered when a high ranking German Cardinal visited the church. In the mid-1950s the church building was consecrated. On the interior there are a number of small gold crosses on the side walls. This means the church building may never be used for any other purpose, and is one of the steps necessary for elevation to the rank of Basilica. Also, the parish worked hard to maintain a debt-free status, another requirement for elevation.

In 1956 the parish was elevated to the rank of Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XII. This happened when the parish received a Latin document from the Vatican that proclaimed St. Francis Xavier as having the rank of Minor Basilica. A mass officially naming the church as a Basilica was held at a later date, this attracted crowds from all over the state, as well as many high ranking clergy.

In the early 1970s a new pipe organ was installed in the church. The Wicks Organ Company of Highland, Illinois manufactured this instrument to replace an earlier instrument that was installed in 1915.

The interior of the church was recently refurbished. The paintings and frescos were cleaned. Other frescos that were hidden under coats of paint were restored. The Baldacchino, the main altars, the side altars, and the statues were cleaned and restored. This was possible due to a gift from a parishioner. This refurbishment helped to increase the beauty of the church interior.

Missing image
The Nave

In the mid-1990s, the parish began to offer a Tridentine Mass at 12:00 pm on Sundays. This mass is either said or sung in Latin according to the 1962 Rite. It's the only such Mass in the Archdiocese. People have been known to travel a distance in order to attend this mass.

External links

Other images

St. Francis Xavier ministering to the Indians
St. Francis Xavier ministering to the Indians

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