Sunday before the tea, Susan took us to St. Mary’s Church in St. Benedict, Kansas. It is just outside of Seneca, where I had been before with the ex-boyfriend when he worked there. He had taken me around a lot of the area up there, and it seems like we had driven by this church, but hadn’t stopped in. I’m so glad Susan took us – it was an amazing place to be.
Because I love stars, of course I was enchanted with this bit of a stained glass window. There are many, many, many stained glass windows and lots of hand painted decoration on the walls. Stunning. Completely stunning.
The church was completed on November 13, 1894, three years after construction began. It is 162 feet by 60 feet, with a tower of 172.5 feet. The limestone came from the Schneider and Hurley farms about three miles north. This is actually the fourth building to serve the parish, which was founded in 1859.
The church has the traditional, Roman style, layout. Inside the front doors is a small vestibule. When you walk into the sanctuary, the organ is overhead in the loft, which was open when we were there. The vaults are 52 and 35 feet high, with cast iron columns bearing the weight of them and the roof.
The ribs in such structures are always amazing to me.
The painting on the walls was done in 1901 by G.F. Satory of Wabasha, Minnesota did the decoration in the church. He used stencils to create patterns, bands and friezes in a variety of colors. He did the columns, vault ribs, window openings and other areas. The designs incorporate many Christian symbols. It was this ornamentation that got the church placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 5, 1980.
Around the church are the 15 mysteries of the Rosary. This one, “The Finding in the Temple,” is in the choir loft.
If this all looks very fresh for more than 100 years, you’re very observant. It was restored beginning in 1979. It took three years to complete the job, but was done with painstaking accuracy to the original as far as color, blending and design. It is the only known Satory-painted church to be preserved. All the others have been lost to modern paint jobs over the years.
The choir loft has two angels, one pink and one blue, holding lights. They are magnificent pieces. In this photo you can also see more of the painted decoration.
You may notice some color differences – that’s because of where I was in relation to the sunlight in the church. The choir loft was one of the best areas for photography.
In 1984, the pipe organ was fully restored by the Quimby Organ Company of Warrensburg, Missouri. It is all mechanical. It was manufactured by the Hinners Organ Company of Pekin, Illinois about 1916. The sound is styled on the Romantic Period of organ building. It has 17 rans with 932 pipes. Most of the pipes are constructed of wood, but the larger pipes in and behind the case are made of zinc. The smaller ones are made of an alloy of fifty percent lead and tin.
Of course, the stained glass is spectacular.
I couldn’t resist some close-ups in the one place I could get close enough – the stairs and the choir loft.
Structures like this are built with attention to detail. One place where it’s obvious is in the light that hangs near the altar. If you put yourself right under it, the decoration is made to the perfect size to frame the light itself.
It’s a beautiful place to spend some time. There’s also a grotto to the side, with some fascinating rocks to enjoy.
St. Mary’s is worth a drive to enjoy.
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