The School Sisters of St. Francis teaching order formed in Munich, Germany. Its founding nuns immigrated to Wisconsin after Germany placed education under state control in 1872. The order settled in Campbellsport and then established its world headquarters in Milwaukee in 1886, dedicated to training teachers for religious schools. Their original convent burned in 1890 and was replaced in three stages by the building that extends north to Greenfield Avenue.
The St. Joseph Convent chapel’s conservative Romanesque Revival exterior gives little indication of the splendor found inside. Fifteen kinds of marble from six countries ornament the chapel. Along with extensive mosaics, there are 115 lavish art-glass windows, made in Innsbruck, Austria. The Romanesque round arch repeats throughout the soaring nave in the vaulting, clerestory, arcades, and reredos. The chapel’s exquisite acoustics are attributable to Mother M. Alfons Schmid, who established and fostered the convent’s internationally recognized musical study program.