You too are living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5
The Story of this Parish Family
St. John the Apostle & Evangelist Parish was founded in 1847. It served Catholics moving to the first suburb of the original village/city of St. Louis. The area had been a peach orchard. Names of many of the Catholic founding families of St. Louis, of diverse nationalities, appear in the parish record books.
The present church was dedicated on 4 November 1860. It has, since then, been in continuous daily use. In the late 1800’s the Old Cathedral, on the riverfront, was no longer adequate in size & its location had become undesirable. Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick then designated St. John’s, for some twenty years, the Cathedral Church of this Archdiocese. The Archbishop occupied a residence, across the main plaza of the church, on what was then 16th Street.
In 1960, for the 100th anniversary of the church dedication, and coinciding with the Plaza
Square redevelopment of this center city area, at a cost of $600,000, St. John’s was completely restored. The generosity of parish members throughout the years has made possible ongoing maintenance and needed improvements to the church.
In 2004, at a cost of one half million dollars, the upper quarter of each bell tower, was demolished and restored. The American Institute of Architects recognized this as an award winning project for restoration and preservation.
Distinctive interior features include the reproduction, in the east apse, of Raphael’s 1520 painting of The Transfiguration recounted in the Gospel of St. Matthew. The original is displayed today in the Vatican Museums in Rome. Scenes in the stained glass windows present depictions of various events in the life of Christ recounted in the Gospel of St. John. Beneath the image of Mary in the sanctuary, the Shrine Altar was given in 1864, by James M. Slevin in memory of his wife, Elizabeth Patterson Slevin, who died in a tragic accident shortly after the couple married at St. John’s. The facial image of The Madonna on the front piece of the Altar is a likeness of the young bride. The Stations of the Cross are oil painted on copper and were imported from Europe. In 2012 they were professionally restored. On 15 September 2002 the 8 rank Wicks Pipe Organ was dedicated. Following a lightening strike on Palm Sunday of 2012, resulting in extensive damage, the organ was completely restored and enhanced with the addition of an antiphonal chamber in the apse behind the High Altar.
In 2005 a marble Baptismal Font for the church was acquired from the closed Church of St. Boniface in South St. Louis. In 2009 a fixed Marble Altar of Sacrifice, for Mass celebrated as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council, replacing a temporary Altar, fashioned of wood, was erected. The Altar was consecrated and inaugurated by Bishop Terry Steib, former Auxiliary Bishop of St. Louis and now Bishop of Memphis in Tennessee. In 2013, at the direction of Archbishop Robert Carlson, the Cathedra or Bishop’s Chair used by Archbishop Kenrick in his Cathedral here, was returned to the church recognizing its historic part of the patrimony of the Archdiocese. As is custom, the Great Seal of the Archdiocese of St. Louis stands behind the chair designating it as the Archbishop’s Cathedra which he alone occupies.
On 11 December 2010 the Archbishop Carlson celebrated the Sesquicentennial Mass for the Dedication of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Church. A new granite cornerstone was set in the northwest bell tower to memorialize this occasion. Carved in it are the words from the Book of Genesis attributed to Jacob and his dream of heaven: “How awesome is this place! This is the House of God. This is the Gate of Heaven”!