Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church

On July 26, 1701, two days after their arrival in what is now Detroit, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and his expedition built a small log structure in Fort Pontchartrain dedicated to Ste. Anne, patron saint of New France. The church records, which date from 1704, are the oldest parish records in Michigan and the second oldest continuously active Roman Catholic parish records in the nation.

The present building in Southwest Detroit is the eighth edifice occupied by the parish of Ste. Anne. Built in 1886-1887, the church was designed in a basic cruciform plan by Leon Coquard, a Detroit architect and parishioner. The exterior of the church is in the Gothic Revival style and has the twin spires common in northern French churches. Of particular interest are the flying buttresses, a feature fairly common in gothic churches in Europe, but unusual in the “New World.”

The church contains many relics from the 1818 stone church which stood on Bates Street. Among its treasures are: the cornerstone, the main altar, the Julius Melchers hand carved communion rail, the “Beaubien Bell” (a gift from Mrs. Antoine Beaubien in 1848) and the statue of Ste. Anne and her daughter, Mary. The grisaille windows located at the rim of the nave and several of the sanctuary windows high up near the ceiling are the oldest glass in the city. Friedrichs and Staffin (Detroit Stained Glass Company) did work on the windows at three different periods. Granville Wood and Son built and installed the 26-rank pipe organ at the time of the church construction.

Large doors on either side of the main altar lead to the chapel. Fr. Gabriel Richard celebrated Mass at this very altar. The chapel contains the original main altar from the previous Ste. Anne’s, as well as the tomb of Father Gabriel Richard. He served as Ste. Anne’s pastor from 1798 to his death in 1832. The tomb had been located under the main altar of the church but was moved to the chapel in 1976 to make it more accessible to the public. In 2020, Pope Francis designated Ste. Anne as a minor basilica, one of just three in Michigan. 



Ste. Anne de Detroit Exterior, 1975 – 2014.003.250

Old Ste. Anne de Detroit Church, c.1880 – 2014.003.255

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