Reprinted with permission as a public service by the Landmark Society of the Niagara Frontier, now the Preservation Buffalo Niagara

Houses of Worship: A Guide to the Religious Architecture of Buffalo, New York
By James Napora
Table of Contents

St. Francis Xavier RC Church - Table of Contents

St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church - 1911-1913
149-157 East Street
Max Beierl

With the completion of the Erie Canal, the Village of Black Rock experienced a period of increased growth. With the development of industry came people.

German Catholics: The early Catholic settlers in the area, desiring to satisfy their spiritual needs, were forced to walk downtown to the churches there, or to the St. John Chapel in North Bush (Tonawanda). Although lacking a Catholic church in the area, the absence of a suitable school became the catalyst for the founding of the parish, as many of the German Catholic residents were concerned about the moral and religious training of their children.

In 1847, twelve men met and decided to organize a school for their children. They rented a room at 63 Thompson Street and proceeded to convert it into a classroom. The following year, they purchased the present site of the church for $300 and built a small school house on it.

Upon hearing of their efforts, in October, 1849, Bishop John Timon sent Rev. Bernard Fritsch to inspect the school. He conducted a meeting with the parents and urged them to add a small chapel onto it. With the chapel completed, Rev. Francis Guth of St. Louis Church on Main Street said the first mass on 3 December, 1849. Also on this day, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Catholic Diocese granted the parish mission status.

The first church: In 1851, Bishop Timon appointed Rev. Nicholas Sester as pastor of the new parish. He immediately began planning for the construction of a new house of worship. In the Spring of 1852, ground was broken for the new church. The men of the parish joined together and labored in the mornings before seven and after work in the evenings placing the foundation. The following spring they placed the cornerstone and erected their first church. In 1859 the parish was incorporated as The German Roman Catholic Church of St. Francis Xavier of Black Rock Dam.

During the ensuing years the parish grew rapidly. In 1864, the church purchased additional land and established a cemetery. They enlarged the cemetery in 1880 and again in 1887. Located on Niagara Street, it is now surrounded on three sides by Riverside Park.

The second church: The congregation worshipped in their original house of worship for over fifty years before outgrowing it. In 1911, they began the construction of the current church. Based on the Basilican Plan, they placed the cornerstone on 23 February, 1911 and completed the building two years later.

It appears as originally designed, except for the tower, which was rebuilt in 1931 after a crack developed in the west corner of it. At that time, the bottom forty feet were repaired and the top completely replaced. The tower still remains a landmark in the Black Rock area.

Interior: The interior of the building is well noted for the art work which graces it. The murals, executed in 1913 by the Benedictine Monk Fr. Raphael, adorn the sanctuary and the side altars. The minor decorations are the work of ecclesiastical artist Josef Varga. The richly painted ceiling of the nave surmounts a clerestory supported by twelve monolithic columns. The stained glass windows of the nave, executed in Munich, Germany, are art glass representations of the Stations of the Cross, the only such occurrence in the city.

© 1995 James Napora
Page by Chuck LaChiusa with the assistance of David Torke
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