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. It was built in 1886-1887; the architect of the church was Albert French; the contract for architectural services survives in the church archives. Leon Cocquard, a parishioner and an employee of French, claimed the church as his design and it is likely that he designed the church as French’s employee. The church has a typical cruciform plan, following the usual pattern for French Gothic churches. The exterior of the church is likewise in the Gothic Revival style and has the twin spires common in northern French churches. 

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 figural windows located in the clerestory of the apse and transepts are the oldest glass in the city, having been transferred from the older church. Friedrichs and Staffin (Detroit Stained Glass Works) did work on the windows at three different periods and the Buffalo Stained Glass Works also provided windows.  Granville Wood and Son built and installed a 26-rank pipe organ at the time of the church construction; it is now a Casavant of 1941 retaining the case and much pipework. 

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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