Sainte Anne de Detroit Catholic Church
Location Name: Sainte Anne de Detroit Catholic Church (Detroit, Michigan)
Location Type: Church (Catholic)
Year Completed: 1887
Architect(s): Leon Coquard and Albert French
The second oldest continuously operating Roman Catholic parish in the United States, Sainte Anne de Detroit was founded on 26 July 1701. Two days after Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac landed in Detroit, on Sainte Anne’s feast day, construction of the first church structure began. Detroit faced many challenges during its first century, and Sainte Anne de Detroit was at the forefront of community life during these times. The French sought to educate and reform the Native Americans, and this was done mostly through the Church. The territory that included Detroit passed from French hands to British hands before Detroit became a part of the United States in 1796. During the War of 1812, Detroit was captured by the British until the Treaty of Ghent put it back in American hands. Detroit was on the frontier and Sainte Anne de Detroit was on a battleground. No history of the City of Detroit is complete without mentioning the great importance of Sainte Anne de Detroit and its leaders.
As Detroit began to prosper as a city, and the Michigan Territory pushed towards statehood, Sainte Anne de Detroit was again at the forefront of community life and politics. The noted Father Gabriel Richard served as pastor of Sainte Anne de Detroit’s from 1802 until his death in 1832. During this time his accomplishments served to take Michigan from a frontier territory to a modern state. He was a proponent of formal education and worked to co-found the Catholepistemiad of Michigania in 1817 (which later became the University of Michigan). Richard also published Michigan’s first newspaper in 1809 and eventually became the first Catholic priest to serve as a member of Congress. Richard served one term as a non-voting delegate of the Michigan Territory from 1823-1825. Father Richard died in 1832, a victim of a cholera epidemic that swept through Detroit.
Over the three centuries of Sainte Anne de Detroit’s history, the parish has had many homes. The previous structure, the one used by Father Richard just before his death, also served as the Cathedral of the Diocese of Detroit from 1833 to 1844. The Cathedral was then relocated to Saints Pater and Paul Jesuit Church (now the oldest church structure remaining in Detroit). Today, the current structure is the eighth to serve the parish. At a cost of $100,000, the current structure was completed on 27 October 1887. Designed by architects Leon Coquard and Albert French, the Gothic Revival building is made of brick and limestone. Dominated by the twin spire-topped towers at the facade, Sainte Anne de Detroit is reminiscent of a French cathedral, complete with flying buttresses, gargoyles and elaborate portal entrances. The church also features the oldest stained glass in Detroit, dating back to 1886.
Today, Sainte Anne de Detroit is a pillar of Detroit’s history. Within the church many relics of the previous 1818 church can be found. Also within the church there is a crypt containing the body of Father Richard. The parish has seen much change throughout the years; it has gone from a predominantly French parish to an Irish parish and now a largely Hispanic parish. All the while Sainte Anne de Detroit has served the religious needs of the city from its founding days. Father Richard even coined the motto of the City of Detroit. "Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus," in English, "We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes." Sainte Anne de Detroit saw the city arise from the ashes of the 1805 fire that destroyed Detroit, just as it will see Detroit’s Renaissance in the future. A constant among endless change, Sainte Anne de Detroit is in its fourth century and serves as a symbol of Detroit’s history and strength against all odds.
Sainte Anne de Detroit Catholic Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.Sources