St. Louis Originals: The Churches of the South Side

Categories: Architecture

Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church

Sts. Peter and Paul in Soulard.

Mardi Gras revelers might know this church as the location where they or their friends passed out last month, but Sts. Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church bears a much more august history. While not the oldest church in the city, it can trace its construction back to 1875, making it one of the most resilient parishes in St. Louis. The bell tower, with its clearly incongruous stones, rose above the church in 1890. As Soulard struggled through difficult times in the 20th century, the church stayed, and it now remains to serve the homeless in the neighborhood.

Resurrection of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church

Resurrection of Our Lord on Meramec Street in Dutchtown.

Resurrection of Our Lord, shines as another largely unknown gem on Meramec, down the street from St. Anthony. And its design, in the Modernist style popular in the middle of the 20th century, distinguishes it from most of its counterparts in the city. Rejecting the traditional floor plan of a church, Resurrection instead fans out in a wide arc from its high altar. Large windows of both clear and stained glass filter light down into the sanctuary, both bucking tradition while simultaneously embracing it. A tall, slender bell tower rises above church, again speaking to tradition while reinterpreting it. After declining attendance, the church has reimagined itself as the center of the Vietnamese community in St. Louis and is now thriving. A unique feature: a stand-alone baptistry, a rarity in American churches.

Chris Naffziger writes about architecture at St. Louis Patina. Contact him via e-mail at

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St. Anthony's did not fully recover from the fire of '94; many of the murals and some of the stained glass could not be restored.  As one who grew up a block away and attended grade school at StA, I'd also say the demise of the school belies the notion of the church as an anchor.  I'd like to believe that, but it's simply not accurate.  St. Francis de Sales has a very active conservative traditionalist Roman Catholic congregation, with many home-schooled families who attend mass and come from many miles away.  My sister's family is one of them. The church's designation as an oratory by the papacy is considered a privilege select and -- dare I say " above" -- that of the parish, particularly as parishes decline in the City.

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

I remember when I was young, there was a special holiday where the Catholic churches were open all night long for you to come in and say a prayer. My Mom and I would drive around and visit a lot of different churches around St. Louis. I loved the architecture. The older the church, the better. I don't know if it's still a tradition or not, but it was a great way to see the inside of churches without [enduring] mass. We just went in, sat in a pew for a while (to pray) and then quietly walked around to look at things and left. I think so long as people are respectful, they wouldn't mind.

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

Dude, if you're railing against religion, I'm with ya... but don't take it out on the amazing architecture.


Thanks so much for this great work, Mr. N.  

Keith Mccollum
Keith Mccollum

How is that fitting? Because it's the South Siiiiiiiiide?!

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