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St. Joseph Co-Cathedral (St. Joseph's Church)

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St. Joseph's Church
1883–1887, Joseph Michaud. 29 Allen St., City of Burlington

As their immigration to Burlington accelerated after the Civil War, French Canadians built their second church (reputedly the largest in Vermont) in the heart of their Old North End neighborhood. St. Joseph's Church was the work of the Reverend Joseph Michaud, architect to the Montreal diocese, who had already built a church in neighboring Winooski (CH41). Michaud went to Rome in 1868 to prepare designs for the Cathedral of St. James in Montreal (1870–1894) as a reduced version of St. Peter's Basilica. While there he became enamored of the baroque Counter-Reformation architecture of the sixteenth century, viewing it as particularly appropriate for contemporary Catholic churches. In 1880, for the church at Lac des Deux Montagnes, near Montreal, Michaud utilized Giacomo della Porta's voluted facade of Il Gesu in Rome, simplifying it to stress silhouette rather than decoration. Three years later, Michaud repeated this design on a grander scale for St. Joseph's.

Atop a monumental flight of stairs, the church's facade is built of local redstone accented with Isle La Motte limestone for quoins and for the round-headed frames of entrances, statue niches, and windows. A lightly advancing central pavilion capped by a pedimented gable with a modillion cornice is flanked by bays with voluted rooflines. Behind the pediment rises a bell tower in the form of two superposed tempiettos and a slender conical spire. The church's facade may faintly recall Rome, but its niches, bell tower, and cock-surmounted cross strongly evoke French Quebec. A standing-seam copper roof replaced the church's once-dazzling patterned slate roof in 1985. The rather austere exterior gives onto a bright neoclassical basilica, with a barrel-vaulted ceiling supported on monumental wooden Corinthian columns reinforced with cast-iron cores.

While services are no longer in French, St. Joseph's, with its rectory (1906) at Elmwood Avenue and Peru Street and Ecole Nazareth (1929), remains a focus for Burlingtonians of Francophone ancestry.

Writing Credits

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson


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Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "St. Joseph Co-Cathedral (St. Joseph's Church)", [Burlington, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 144-144.

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