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Southeast of the town of Festina is what is referred to as “the smallest cathedral in the world,” another of Iowa's folk follies. The church is 14 feet wide and 20 feet long, with a 5-foot-square entrance tower. The walls of the church are of limestone rubble and the wood-frame tower is sheathed in drop siding. The windows in the building and the louvered openings of the tower are round arched. The sanctuary within has a wood barrel-vaulted ceiling. The church was built in 1885 by a former French soldier, Johann Gaertner (1793–1887), and was dedicated by him to his safe return from Napoleon's winter retreat from Moscow. The present belfry was added in 1888, and the small altar and the stained glass windows were put in place in 1903. The church can be reached be proceeding west from the junction of Iowa 150 and route B32 in Festina. At the western edge of town this street becomes a gravel road; travel 1 mile to the first gravel road to left (south) and drive 1.5 miles on this gravel road; one will find the church off to the east.

Writing Credits

David Gebhard and Gerald Mansheim

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