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Architectural Tours -- Churches & Cathedrals



Tour Overview

In the 19th century, American designers picked up on the European "revivalist" trend toward Medieval architecture and transformed it into what has become known as the Victorian Gothic and Late Gothic Revival styles.  Dozens of Detroit churches and cathedrals embody elements of these styles.  Note that the interiors of many of these buildings are as or more impressive than the exteriors, so be sure to take a look inside.  In addition to great architecture and history, these churches maintain some of the oldest, finest and rarest vessels and vestments.


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Ste. Anne de Detroit [A]

1000 Sainte Anne Street



One of many fascinating and historic churches in Detroit, St. Anne's is highly demonstrative of the Victorian Gothic architectural period of the late 19th century.  But Ste. Anne's importance is defined even more so by its history.  Construction of the original Ste. Anne Roman Catholic Church began a mere two days after French Explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac's landing in Detroit in 1701.  Due to fires and urban renewal, Ste. Anne's was re-built eight times in its history.  The present Ste. Anne's located near the Ambassador Bridge was completed in 1887.  Ste. Anne's is the second oldest parish in the country with an unbroken history, founded 75 years before the United States of America came into existence, and is the sole operating entity that dates to Detroit's founding.  The church's historical records are considered highly significant and comprehensively document Detroit's evolution from a French settlement to a British-claimed territory to a U.S. city.

Fort Street Presbyterian [B]

631 West Fort Street



This National and State historical monument was built in 1855 using limestone from the quarries of Malden, Canada.  It was designed Decorated Gothic style by architect Albert H. Jordan.  The highlight of the exterior is the spire that rises 265 feet above the street, supported by flying buttresses atop a tower copied from a 15th century English cathedral in Louth, England.  At the time of its construction, Lafayette and Fort Streets were the fashionable part of the city and it was surrounded by the stately homes of prominent Detroiters including Russell A. Alger, James, F. Joy, Theodore S. Buhl, Henry D Shelden, and Zachariah Chandler.

Mariners' Church of Detroit [C]

170 East Jefferson Avenue



This rectangular, front-gable Gothic Revival church with walls of grey, irregularly coursed limestone topped by a crenellated roofline is the oldest stone church in Michigan. The facade shows a single-story dominated by a central rose window depicting a mariner's compass and mariner's wheel. The church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was immortalized in the 1975 ballad "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" as the "cathedral" where "the church bell chimed 'til it rang 29 times" for each man that perished on the doomed freighter.

St. John's Episcopal [D]

50 East Fisher Freeway


This Victorian Gothic-style church was built in the mid-1800s along Woodward Avenue in an area once known as Piety Hill.  At the time, Piety Hill was considered to be on the "outskirts" of the city but now is very much in the middle of the action (the church is situated across from the Fox Theatre and adjacent to Comerica Park).  In addition to impressive exterior architecture, St. John's has beautiful stained glass representative of a number of different styles.  If time, also check out Christ Church just south of Comerica Park on the same side of Woodward.

St. Albertus [E]

4231 St. Aubin Street



When Polish immigrants came to America back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they found comfort and community in their churches.  St. Albertus Roman Catholic Church played an important role in the life of Detroit's Polish-American community for over 100 years.  Designed to emphasize the Polish origins of its congregation and to set it apart from other churches in this area of the city, St. Albertus is the mother church to some 30 parishes in Detroit.  St. Albertus was dedicated on July 4, 1885 and is a symbol of the hard work and industry of the Polish families who first settled in this area of Detroit.  The building's rather plain, brick exterior is contrasted with ornately painted ceilings and cross vaults, gilded panels, colorful stained glass windows, and marble communion rails.  St. Albertus is no longer an active parish but holds one mass per month and is open to the public for tours.

Sweetest Heart of Mary [F]

4440 Russell Street



Sweetest Heart of Mary Church was founded in 1886 as a result of dissension within mother parish St. Albertus and became a cornerstone of the Polish community in Detroit.  This awe-inspiring church, designed by the architectural firm of Spier and Rohns, was hailed as one of the most beautiful Gothic structures in the State of Michigan and as the largest and grandest Polish church in the United States.  It remains a source of pride and a beacon of faith for Polish Americans in the metro Detroit area to this day.

St. Josaphat [G]

691 East Canfield Street



St. Josaphat was founded in 1889 with much-needed additional capacity for the steady influx of Polish immigrants into the city in the late 1800s.  It became the fourth Polish-speaking parish in the City of Detroit and provided an alternative to the two bickering Polish-speaking parishes nearby, St. Albertus and Sweetest Heart of Mary.  St. Josaphat is built in the Victorian Romanesque style with some Gothic and Baroque details.  The expansion of electric light had great impact on St. Josaphat as is evidenced by all of the sacred images of the church illuminated by a myriad of tiny light bulbs.

Cathedral Church of St. Paul [H]

4800 Woodward Avenue



St. Paul is one of the first and finest examples of the Late Gothic Revival style.  The architect was Ralph Adams Cram, a leading designer of Gothic Revival churches in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Built entirely of limestone, the Cathedral was not only intended to look Gothic, but it was actually built according to medieval construction techniques. There is no steel superstructure in the building, and its enormous weight is entirely self-supported.  A Detroit architectural treasure!


Tour Map

Number of Destinations:  8

Overall Tour Time:  1 day (allowing for extended stops at several locations)



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