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Church of Saints Peter and Paul

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1941–1942, Barry Byrne. 304 N. Euclid.
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)

The Church of Saints Peter and Paul is located on a bluff overlooking the city of Pierre. Architect Francis Barry Byrne designed the V-shaped modernist structure to accommodate both the church’s $50,000 budget and the site’s triangular plot, located at a bend in Euclid Avenue at Broadway. The main entrance, with its stepped facade rising to a dramatic tower with an open void, faces the intersection, where traffic driving up the hill from the Missouri River directly faces the church. The yellow brick building has wings extending to either side of the entrance, and the placement of their windows echoes the rise of the tower, with increasingly taller windows closest to the entrance. A simple cross sits atop the tower, which once held bells in the open void but now contains a statue. The bells are now located in a modernist metal framework southeast of the building.

Both the exterior and interior are relatively unadorned. The geometry of the exterior is carried inside, where the V-shaped plan modifies a traditional nave and sanctuary church interior. Instead, the walls extend outward from the main entrance before turning inward at the widest point, narrowing toward the altar. Rectangular windows of equal size line these walls. Two rows of pews are angled toward the central altar, which is flanked by side altars and rows of pews along the outer walls. The basement level contained a social hall.

Byrne, who had apprenticed with Frank Lloyd Wright, was exposed to modernism during his 1920s European travels, where he was in contact with leading modernists such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and was especially drawn to the work of expressionists like Erich Mendelsohn, whom he also met. Byrne applied modernist design to the liturgical reform movement, and like contemporary architects such as Eliel Saarinen, who designed First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana, Byrne incorporated modernism into his many ecclesiastical designs. He continued to design modernist churches into the 1960s.

The Church of Saints Peter and Paul continues to serve an active congregation. The building is relatively intact, despite modifications to the main entrance.


Erpstad, David, and David Wood. Building South Dakota. Pierre: South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 1997.

Michael, Vincent L. The Architecture of Barry Byrne. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2013.

Writing Credits

Michelle L. Dennis



  • 1941


What's Nearby


Michelle L. Dennis, "Church of Saints Peter and Paul", [Pierre, South Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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