Churches play a very pivotal role in New Orleans history, and the Gothic and Baroque-inspired St. Mary’s Assumption Church is no exception. Located in the Lower Garden District at 923 Josephine Street, St. Mary’s was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974.
When New Orleans was hit with an influx of immigrants in the mid 19th century, churches were built according to ethnic heritage. St. Mary’s Assumption Church was founded in order to serve the religious needs of the German Catholic population of New Orleans. Across the street, St. Alphonsus Church was primarily a parish for Irish Catholics of the city. Completed in 1860, the church reflects the hard work of many European craftsmen working in the area at the time. It is considered to be a showcase of German bricklaying skill. Although the architect of the church remains a mystery, if you look at the façade, you will see an impressive example of brick molding that forms many arches, niches and crosses.
St. Mary’s is home to a shrine for Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, who was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 2000. Father Seelos was a German priest who came to the United States and cared for victims of yellow fever until he himself died of the disease in 1867. The church is also known for its association with New Orleans’ best-selling author Anne Rice. She and her husband renewed their wedding vows in the church and she included St. Mary’s as a frequently used setting in her fiction.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the church sustained relatively minimal damage from the winds and rain. Many institutions and citizens, including author Anne Rice herself, implored people to donate to help repair buildings like St. Mary’s in the aftermath of the storm. Weekly masses are still conducted at St. Mary’s Assumption and all visitors are welcome.