History of Our Church
Ste. Genevieve Parish is the oldest recorded parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
The Catholic faith first came to the Ste. Genevieve area when Father Marquette came down the Mississippi in 1673.
The first people of the parish were French Catholics from Canada who built a log church on the “Le Grand Champ” or Big Common Field. Beginning in 1759, records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths were kept. These records are still treasured and cared for in the parish.
In 1794 the old log church in “Le Grand Champ” was dismantled and moved to higher ground due to flooding. The baptistery in the present church contains the old stone bowl which is said to be from the old log church dated 1794.
To accommodate the growth of the parish, in 1831, work was begun on a stone church which was consecrated on November 12, 1837 by Bishop Rosati of St. Louis. It was around this time that there was a wave of German immigrants to the area, and so English, French and German sermons were now preached.
As the parish grew, in the Spring of 1876, work was begun on a new church designed in part by Father Francis X. Weiss, the pastor. The church was to be built around and above the old stone structure. While the building of the brick church was going on, services were held as usual in the rock church. When completed the stone church was dismantled and carried out the doors of the present church.
The pillars of the present structure are part of the old stone church, and the foundation was left in place to help support the brick church.
This church was dedicated on September 29, 1880. The total cost of the church was $24,000.00, with $18,000.00 donated by Mrs. Odile Valle.
In 1911 the church was enlarged to its present size, under the leadership of Father Charles L. Van Tourenhout, who served this parish for 58 years. The hexagonal apse containing the present sanctuary was added, along with two transepts containing the shrines of Ste. Genevieve and St. Joseph. Five altars of white Texas marble, a marble pulpit, and the marble railings were installed.
The bell tower and steeple rise 190 feet above the street, and are visible for miles. There are four bells in the tower. The largest, named Mary, in honor of Mary Immaculate, the next largest, Genevieve, in honor of our patron saint, and the third largest, Francis, in honor of Father Weiss. The smallest bell is Joseph, the death bell, honoring St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.
Five people are interred beneath the altar area: Francois Corset, longtime cantor of the church who died in 1798; Francois Valle, commandant of Ste. Genevieve from 1796 to 1804, buried with his wife, Marie C. Valle; Father Jacques Maxwell, pastor of Ste. Genevieve from 1797 to 1814, and Father Henri Pratt, a native of Ste. Genevieve and first Catholic priest born west of the Mississippi, who was pastor from 1816 to 1822.
Ste. Genevieve Parish has been blessed throughout our history with many fine pastors and associates who have helped our parish to grow in faith and spirit of community.
In 2009, the parish celebrated 250 years of Catholic faith here in Ste. Genevieve. By the grace of God, our prayer is that the faithful of this community will celebrate our history for many years to come.