The cornerstone of this church was laid on June 12, 1910, and the completed church was solemnly blessed on June 30, 1912.
Much like the cathedrals of Europe this church was build by skilled volunteers gifted in various trades. Engelbert Gier, the architect, a member of the parish, learned his trade in Germany. His brother Emil carved the two large Gothic shrines in the transept. Local carpenters and brick layers built the edifice. Bricks were made on site with a hand mold which pressed five bricks at a time.
No records exist concerning the exact cost of the church, but tradition has it that it cost $85,000.00 plus contributed services. This figure may seem unreal, but the going rate for skilled labor was only $2.00 per day, and lumber cost $8.00 per 1000 board foot.
The church, designed and build in the Revival Gothic style is laid out in the form of a Latin Cross. The altar and sanctuary are located at the intersection of this cruciform building. Here the ceiling is painted blue and studded with gold leaf stars. In the German tradition this is called the “Himmel” or heaven and was designed to focus one’s attention on the altar, the most important piece of furniture in the church.
Beyond the rail is the Eucharist Chapel dominated by the high tabernacle shrine. It is here that the Blessed Sacrament is kept in repose.
The Revival Gothic church is typified by high vaulted ceilings with massive ribs, pointed arches and tall slender stained glass windows.
Stained Glass Windows
There are 22 stained glass windows in the church. They depict the life of Mary and represent highlights from the life of Jesus.
The two windows in the apse of the church, on each side of the tabernacle shrine, were made by the Royal Bavarian Glass Works in Munich, Germany for this church. These windows represent the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God, and the Resurrection of the Lord on that first Easter Sunday. They are much like the ‘books ends’ of Redemption history.
The two small windows over the north and south side doors were made by the Povey Brothers of Portland and were moved here from the sanctuary of the previous church. They represent the Epiphany and Christ’s Agony in the Garden. The latter was the only window to receive serious damage in the 1993 earthquake.
The remaining windows in the church were made by the Emil Frei Glass Company of St. Louis, Missouri. These windows, with the exception of the four in the choir loft, are like snap shots from a family album, documenting the important moments of the life of the Holy Family.
In the choir loft are four window representing the Choir of Angels. These windows, based on paintings done by Fra. Angelico, a Fifteenth Century Franciscan, are perhaps the most photographed in the church. The Emil Frei windows not only have perfect proportions but also perfect form and coloring.
These beautiful stained glass windows have been lovingly and artistically restored. They shine and sparkle like jewels in this architectural crown of the Willammette Valley.
Stenciling and Art
The stencilling in this church was originally executed by William Kloer, a master German painter, from St. Louis, Missouri. The Spring Break Earthquake of 1993 so damaged the church that it needed to be completely repainted.
High in the nave, where the wall meets the ceiling are the “Te Deum” Angels, a Latin litany of hymn of praise written to the Lord in the Fourth Century.
Above the tabernacle shrine is the classical painting of the Lamb of God. The lilies in the ceiling vaults are allegorical representations of Mary.
The ceiling above the altar is painted a deep Marian blue and represents the heavens. Around the windows and arches, strawberries, thistles and roses are used to remind us of the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the Rosary.
The tabernacle shrine is a blend of Classical and Baroque styles. This shrine and the two side shrines were saved from the previous church (then used as altars) and were supposed to be eventually replaced with shrines (altars) in the Gothic style. They never were. On the tabernacle shrine is a crucifixion group with Jesus on the cross, Mary and John, the Apostle. On either side are statues of St. Benedict, founder of the Benedictines and Father of Western monasticism and his twin sister St. Scholastica.
The Virgin Mary shrine shows Mary as Queen of Heaven and Mother of God. She is flanked by two early martyrs, Barbara and Lawrence. On the St. Joseph shrine is St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, flanked by St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua.