Jasper’s Saint Joseph Catholic Church was founded in 1837 by Father Joseph Kundek from Johannich, Croatia. Services for the parish’s fifteen families were originally held in a small log cabin. By 1841, the parish built a larger brick church to accommodate the nearly 100 families that had joined the congregation. This church, too, was outgrown in the following decades as the congregation reached nearly 2,500. In 1867, under the direction of Pastor Fidelis Maute, who served as architect and foreman, parishioners provided the building materials and labor needed to construct the present Romanesque Revival edifice.
On September 14, 1868, Bishop Maurice de St Palais laid the cornerstone with an estimated 5,000 people in attendance at the event. The church was completed in 1904. Maute had obtained plans for the church’s exterior from Chicago architect Albert Druiding, but only followed the general outline and proportions of his design. Druiding called for a brick exterior, but Maute instead used locally quarried sandstone cut into massive blocks measuring four to six feet thick and laid in a running bond. A large stone tower and steeple, completed circa 1904, rise to an impressive height of 235 feet. The tower contains a clock on each of its four sides and tourelles at each corner. The steel steeple and slate roof are topped by a gilded cross.
The spacious interior contains seating for 1,200 and standing room for another 500. The central nave and two side aisles each terminate in a seven-foot-tall white Italian marble altar. Over each are large mosaics depicting Christ the High Priest (central), the Assumption of Mary (north), and the betrothal of Mary to Joseph (south). Fourteen yellow poplar timber columns rise up from the central nave to support the beams and rafters of the roof structure, which is constructed of over one million feet of hardwood lumber. In 1954, the interior walls and columns were veneered with sandstone panels.
On the east lawn of St. Joseph’s is the “Plaza of the Pastors.” At center is a statue of Father Basil Heusler (1898–1942). Closest to the church is a statue of Father Fidelis Maute (1865–1897), who is turned toward the church he built and is depicted holding a carpenter’s square in one hand and cross in the other. On the opposite side of Heusler is a statue of Father Joseph Kundek (1837–1857), who looks out over the town he founded.
Krempp, Kenny, and Reverend Carl Shetler, “St. Joseph Catholic Church,” Dubois County, Indiana. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1980. National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, D.C.
“Our Heritage.” Saint Joseph Catholic Church. Accessed May 27, 2016. http://saintjosephjasper.org/.
“St. Joseph Catholic Church.” National Park Service. Accessed May 27, 2016. http:// nps.gov/.