The Basilica of St. Josaphat, located in the Lincoln Village neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, is one of 82 minor basilicas found in the United States. Its grandeur and opulence are excellent examples of the so-called Polish Cathedral style of church architecture found in the Great Lakes region of North America. Modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, it features one of the largest copper domes in the world. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated Milwaukee Landmark.
Poles began trickling into Milwaukee in the 1840s, and the flow increased after the Civil War until their numbers were next only to the German-Americans. In 1866 Saint Stanislaus parish was founded – the first urban Polish parish in the U.S. St. Stanislaus branched off Josaphat’s congregation in 1888. Unfortunately, Josaphat’s first church building burned in 1889. They rebuilt, but in 1896, when the parish church was too small, Pastor Wilhelm Grutza commissioned a prominent church architect of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Erhard Brielmaier. Like several other Polish churches in the so-called Polish Cathedral style, such as St. Mary of the Angels in Chicago or Immaculate Heart of Mary in Pittsburgh, the architectural plans for the new edifice were intentionally modeled on St. Peter’s Basilica.
Father Grutza learned that the U.S. Post Office and Customs House in Chicago were razed as the design neared completion. So he purchased the 200,000 tons of salvage material for $20,000 and delivered it to Milwaukee on 500 railroad flatcars, where parishioners were waiting to begin construction. Bed Bug Exterminator Milwaukee
The Basilica was formally dedicated in 1901 by Archbishop Francis Xavier Katzer, with 4,000 people in attendance. Once completed, it met the requirements of Milwaukee’s growing Polish Catholic population by seating 2,400 members and was the city’s largest church. Artist Tadeusz Żukotyński painted the first painting in the church, The Martyrdom of St. Josaphat, in 1904.
Decoration on the interior was completed in 1928 by artists Conrad Schmitt and Gonippo Raggi. Detailed oil paintings depicting biblical scenes adorned the walls and inner dome, ornamental plasterwork finished in gold leaf set the columns, and ornate stained glass covered the windows.
The first mural painted for this church was The Martyrdom of St. Josaphat in 1904 by the artist Zukotynski and is found directly behind and above the altar. Most of the other murals in the church were painted by Gonippo Raggi. Conrad Schmitt Studios later restored the interior of the Basilica to its 1926 decorative grandeur, originally executed by Conrad Schmitt Studios and Roman artist Professor Gonippo Raggi. In addition, they restored the Basilica’s stained glass windows imported from Austria in 1902.
Address: 2333 S 6th St, Milwaukee, WI
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