The "new" church, while not the largest in ground dimensions, is one of the most
massive and striking in the area. The plan was executed by parishioner Peter
Dederichs. His design combined facets of Pisan Romanesque and Venetian
Renaissance to create a unique and beautiful structure. It was completed in 1885
at a cost of $81,210.53. The twin towers of the West facade are a very important
part of the city landscape. Hidden above the portico is a gallery of pillars and
two huge stone roses. These features come to us from a time when even
"invisible" details were no excuse for less than top of the line work. The North
tower houses 3 of the 1843 church's 4 bells; the largest being named "Ave
As one enters the church, one is immediately impressed by its
magnificent proportions. It is Roman in style and cruciform in plan - the cross
being seen to best advantage in the richly frescoed ceiling.
The organ in
the West gallery is one of the finest instruments in the Mid-West. Beautiful
polished granite columns, originally intended for the state capital building and
purchased for the paltry sum of $4,625, divide the side aisles from the nave and
support the walls of the main roof. These graceful monolithic shafts with their
stone capitals give an air of simple richness contrasting with the more
elaborate ornamental plaster decorations of the walls and ceilings. On the
ceiling, at the center of the transept, is a fine painting of the patroness of
the church, the Virgin Mary. The brilliant East end is the liturgical focal
point of the church and contains its richest appointments.
redecorated, the structure's interior dimensions are considerably emphasized by
its cool shades of blue. The length of the church is 176 feet, the width of the
nave 80 feet and the transept 116 feet. The ceiling of the nave at the center of
the arch towers 90 feet from the floor.
The high altar was transferred from
the original church and is a marvelous example of the wood carver's art. The
South Sacred Heart altar is new. A faithful copy of the altar lost in the Good
Friday fire of 1994, it proved to be so handsome that it was decided not to
obscure this masterpiece with coats of paint. The execution and installation was
completed by the Imlay City, Michigan firm of Williamson Fine Lumber.
North St. Anthony's Altar exhibits the "softer" look that many coats of paint
have given this finely carved piece. The wooden carved Stations of the Cross
were added to the structure around 1907 and while they wear many coats of paint,
the quality of their craftsmanship shines through. Before she gained the title
"Old", St. Mary's was known for many years as the Church of the Grottos. There
are three: the grotto of Gethesemane depicting Christ's agony in the Garden of
Olives; the Baptismal Grotto depicting Christ's Baptism in the Jordan River by
John the Baptist complete with running water; and the Lourdes Grotto which is a
replica of that French shrine.