St. Mary’s Catholic Church – Indianapolis
Image by Mike Leakey
The history of St. Mary’s Catholic Church is strongly associated with the German American community that quickly developed in Indianapolis during the mid-19th century, when many Germans immigrated to the midwest. The church with its dominating octagonal towers and exterior stone details is a fine example of German Gothic Revival architecture.
Formed as a national parish for the German speaking, the congregation first had a brick church in the 100 block of East Maryland Street. By the end of the century, this area had long been dominated by expanding railroad-related wholesale firms. The parish elected to build closer to the area identified as strongly German.
Church officials bought the present site in 1910 and began construction of the present church. The building was completed in 1912. Its limestone exterior is said by many to closely resemble Cologne Cathedral. Experienced travelers would probably quibble with this. However, St. Mary’s is German Gothic in inspiration, and generally, recalls the lines of the great cathedral. Hermann Gaul, a native of Cologne, was the architect of St. Mary’s and an admirer of the Cologne Cathedral.
For many years, mass was held in German at St. Mary’s but that practice was discontinued decades ago. The church’s role in ethnic history is far from over, however. As Indianapolis experienced a dramatic increase in Hispanic population in the 1990s and 2000s, St. Mary’s parish found a new role. Mass is now regularly held in Spanish on Sundays.