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Saint Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Basilica

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1887. Southwest corner of First Ave. N. and Second St. S.W.
  • Saint Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Basilica (David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim)

This structure is one of the best-known nineteenth-century Gothic Revival churches in Iowa. The body of the church measures 70 by 175 feet; flanking the entrance are paired towers 212 feet high. Both externally and internally the detailing points to the French High Gothic style as a source, though the strong contrast between the light stone detailing and the brick walls conveys the flavor of a multicolored Ruskinian Gothic Revival building. Inside, the church has a 70foot-high vaulted nave, accompanied by high side aisles. The altar is of onyx and marble and is situated under a tall baldacchino. The two side altars, crafted of wood, were installed in 1897. The ceiling over the main aisle is painted, as are other sections of the interior. The frescoes and the “Gothic” stenciling, based directly on European examples, were added in 1905. The stained glass windows have been added over the years, one of the most recent being the rose window above the organ which was put in place in 1959.

Close by, at the southwest corner of Third Street Southwest and Second Avenue Southwest, is the Roman Catholic School (1907). The design reference here is to the classical; there is an entrance porch with Ionic columns, and an open domed tower with arched openings. The materials, stone and brick, match those of the nearby church.

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim


What's Nearby


David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim, "Saint Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Basilica", [Dyersville, Iowa], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Iowa, David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 93-94.

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