Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Ss. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church

Saints Peter and Paul Church is the oldest existing church building in continuous use in Detroit. The ground on which the church stands was purchased by Bishop Peter Paul Lefevere, from Antoine Beaubien in 1843. The church was completed and consecrated as Detroit's Catholic Cathedral on June 29, 1848. In 1877, Bishop Caspar Henry Borgess gave the title to the building to the Jesuit Order (Society of Jesus) as part of an agreement to start Detroit's first Catholic college, which is today the University of Detroit Mercy. The law school of the University still is adjacent to the church. The church was last used as a cathedral on September 14, 1877.

Vicar-General Peter Kindekens and Francis Letourneau designed the rectangular three-aisle church in post-classical basilica style. The front façade is gabled and topped by a short square cupola. The cupola was originally intended to support a tall spire, which was never built.

The interior of the church features hand carved oak confessionals, a barrel-vaulted ceiling painted with frescoes, and an extraordinary Carrara marble altar designed by Gustave Adolph Mueller. Most of the exterior of the church, the organ case, and the baptismal font date to 1848. Henry Erben built the tracker organ the same year. It was electrified in 1915 and dismantled in 1974. Pilzecker and Company of Toledo rebuilt the organ, retaining most of the original 1848 pipes.

The Pope Francis Center, the church’s warming center for the homeless, has been the mission of the church since 1990. On the sidewalk outside the building is the "Homeless Jesus," a bronze sculpture, designed by Ontario-based artist Timothy Schmalz. It was dedicated on June 28, 2015.

 


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