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St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, St. Paul

A daughter of Assumption Church founded in 1855 for German immigrants, St. Agnes was one of three Catholic churches established in St. Paul in the 1880s to service the need of the city’s growing immigrant population. (The others were Saint Adalbert’s for the Polish and Saint Vincent de Paul for the Irish.) The parish of St. Agnes was incorporated in 1887; its first action was to erect a building to serve as a church, school, and convent. An interesting aside, Archbishop Ireland, because of an ongoing dispute with German priests regarding parochial schools, assigned a German-speaking Slovenian priest to the parish. Until their new church was completed the Saint Agnes parishioners worshipped at the Polish church of St. Adalbert, even buying wood to heat it in the winter. Later, however, a respondent noted that if a Pole accidentally entered St. Agnes, they were politely pointed toward St. Adalbert’s. Three lots were purchased on the southeast corner of Lafond and Kent and in 1888 a brick veneer building was dedicated on the site, the first of the parish’s three churches. Ten years later the parish had outgrown its church and school and additional land was purchased on the northeast corner of Thomas and Kent for a new church complex. George Ries was hired to draw up plans for a church in the form of a basilica measuring 116 feet by 68 wide, and 80 feet across at the transepts. From 1909 when construction began until 1912, the parish worshipped in the basement until the superstructure could be completed. Built of Indiana limestone, the Baroque-style church was modeled after the abbey church of Kloster Schlagl, a Praemonstrtensian monastery in Upper Austria. Its side tower, crowned with a copper onion dome, soars 205 feet above the pavement making the church a landmark in the flat terrain of Frogtown. At the time of its dedication it was hailed as the largest German-speaking parish in Minnesota. (Schuler, Church of St. Agnes, p. 61)