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St. Alphonsus Art and Cultural Center (St. Alphonsus Church)

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1855–1857, Louis L. Long; 1890s portico. 2045 Constance St.
  • (Photograph by Karen Kingsley)
  • (Photograph by Karen Kingsley)

One of three churches built within a two-block radius for Catholic immigrants, St. Alphonsus served an English-speaking, mostly Irish congregation. St. Mary’s Assumption Church (OR131) ministered to German immigrants, and the French worshiped at Notre Dame de Bon Secours, built in 1858 and demolished in 1926. All three churches were built by the Redemptorists, who had arrived in New Orleans from Baltimore in 1847. St. Alphonsus, the first of the three churches constructed, is named for St. Alphonsus Liguori, founder of the Redemptorist order. Baltimore architect Long designed the brick building, which is believed to have been built by the Irish immigrant brothers Thomas and Daniel Mulligan. In contrast to the undulating forms of St. Mary’s, St. Alphonsus is crisp-edged and severely geometric, with large square twin towers and a facade animated by paired pilasters, a row of inset rectangular panels above the second-story arched windows, strongly bracketed cornices and moldings, and undecorated capitals. Spires planned for the twin towers were never built. An incongruously delicate triple-arched portico in the center of the facade was added in the 1890s. The interior is dazzling. Rear and side balconies that slope to slender column supports convey the impression of a theatrical space, an effect heightened by the splendid colorful ceiling, stained glass, and tall neo-Baroque gilded altar set in a stagelike columned sanctuary. French-born Dominique Canova (1800–1868), who settled in New Orleans in 1840, was one of the artists who frescoed the coved plaster ceiling in 1866 with images of Mary, St. Alphonsus, and other figures suspended in fluffy clouds. F. X. Zettler of Munich, Germany, manufactured the stained glass for the upper windows, depicting events from the lives of Mary and Jesus, which were installed in 1890. Services at St. Alphonsus ceased in 1979; the church reopened in 1990 as an art and cultural center focusing on the history of the Irish in New Orleans.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Karen Kingsley and Lake Douglas
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Citation

Karen Kingsley and Lake Douglas, "St. Alphonsus Art and Cultural Center (St. Alphonsus Church)", [New Orleans, Louisiana], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/LA-02-OR130.

Print Source

buildings of new orleans book

Buildings of New Orleans, Karen Kingsley and Lake Douglas. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2018, 162-163.

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