Houses of the Holy: Touring Detroit’s Historic Churches

When the subject of churches is brought up, most associate the word with religion– singing hymns, praying, sermons. While there is nothing wrong with the beautiful ceremony involved in churches, it’s a Sunday pastime and a formal one at that. However, churches are some of the United States’ oldest and most historic buildings, and Detroit is full of them. Let’s explore some of the characteristics of Detroit’s famous churches.

Longevity. Detroit’s first Catholic church is also the nation’s second-oldest operating Roman Catholic parish in the country. Founded in 1701, the church has changed locations and been rebuilt eight times. Nevertheless, as is typical with churches in Detroit, the architecture remains true to its design, created during the Gothic Revival. Old St. Mary’s, another famous Detroit church, was founded in 1841. The building was designed by parishioner Peter Dederichs Jr., who is also known for his work in several other historic churches and buildings.

Original design. Old St. Mary’s still has the original granite columns that are rumored to have been first commissioned for the state capitol. When the state passed on the columns, the church was able to purchase them for inclusion in the building, where they remain to this day. Several other churches in Detroit still have original features, such as stone gargoyles and frescoes on the ceilings.

Commitment. Old St. Mary’s in Detroit holds daily masses, holy day masses, and of course, Sunday mass, as do many of Detroit’s Catholic churches. Attending daily mass in Old St. Mary’s is a brush with the historical side of Detroit, where the original Catholic devotion to faith remains just as valid as it was when the churches were built.

Besides some of the nation’s oldest Catholic churches, Detroit’s churches still contain much of their original structure and features, while remaining accessible and welcoming to the public.

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