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Paroisse SS. Pierre et Paul
SS. Peter & Paul Parish

May 2005
Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

Sts. Peter & Paul have their own website where more information and photos may be found. Please visit them at Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Sts. Peter & Paul Parish - Lewiston, ME - Aug 2001
27 Bartlett St.
(at the corner of Ash & Bartlett)
Lewiston, ME

This is Lewiston's own magnificent cathedral, whose great rose window was modeled after that of the cathedral at Chartres and whose heaven piercing, 168-foot-tall towers rival those of any place of worship anywhere in the Old World.

It all began with in 1873 when a, much smaller, brick Gothic structure, with one tall tower, was completed. This first church was built to serve our French-Canadian ancesctors who had been recruited to work in the mills at Lewiston.

By 1895, the old church had been torn down and work on the lower part of the new church was begun. From then on, however, it was a long row to hoe to complete the new building. None of the parishoners could have realized at the time, just how long it would take to realize thier dreams.

The original architect of the church was a Belgian, Noel Coumont, who lived in Lewiston in 1905 when the project began. Coumont was let go or fired and he was followed by other architects who managed to get the basement of the church completed in 1906 so that mass could be regularly held there.

Saints Peter and Paul Church is a cultural monument and is the second largest church in New England.
Boston architect T.G. O'Connell completed the design after a 28-year lapse in construction. Stained-glass windows were installed in 1948.
Between 1906 and 1938 our devoutly Catholic parents, grandparents and other ancestors labored, toiled and donated their hard earned nickels and dimes to erect this imposing monument to their faith.

Despite the difficult years of the Great Depression we were determined to have a place to worship and the result is a French Gothic structure built of Maine granite that has enough wooden pews to seat 2,200.worshipers.

To realize the dream our families held bake sales, ball games, and practically every other community event possible to raise money. In a parish of shoe-factory and textile-mill workers, there were no great benefactors available. And so the $800,000 it took to build this cathedral was raised literally nickel by nickel, dime by dime.

A View From the Inside

Located in the rear gallery, high above the back of the church, sits the elegant "Opus 1588" organ with its 4,000 pipes, manufactured by Casavant Freres, Limitee of Saint Hyacinthe, Québec.

Inside the Upper Church, from a postcard published by Yankee Colour Corp, Southbourough, MA
The nearly 300-foot-long center aisle and the sheer vastness of the church inspires awe!

Roman Catholic services are still held today, and the church is open for group tours. The church was consecrated on October 23, 1938.
At the bottom of the glass are the words - Famille Louis Malo

Above the altar rises one of the cathedral's great stained glass windows, (commerating the family of Louis Malo - a direct ancestor of mine) which seems to hover in the semi-darkness like an immense, multi-hued jewel. "Its scale, as well as its commanding location, emulate the way the medieval cathedrals dominated their own communities," says Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission ...

"Certainly this church was central to the lives of the immigrants who lived in this community,"

   

A Master Craftsman at work
(Aug 2001)
During the 60's and 70's, the great church of Saints Peter and Paul began to deteriorate. Huge cracks appeared in the front towers. All around the base lay bits of stone that had crumbled off. By the 1980s, it was clear that the church was in need of major restoration, but with the congregation having dwindled to 4,000, and three priests to perform services, the future looked grim.

Restoration in Progress
(Aug 2001)

The restoration of the upper church was in progress during my visit to Lewiston. I'm not sure quite how, or why I was able to document some of the work in pictures, but thanks to the Pastor, Rev. Robert D. Lariviere and my cousin Roger Sutton, I have but four pictures of the meticulous efforts undertaken to ensure the longevity of this magnificent building for generations to come.

These carved wooden figures had been removed, and painstakingly restored to thier original grandeur and remounted to watch over future generations who may find their way home.

At this point, the exterior of the cathedral has been completely restored, a new zoned heating system and handicapped-access elevator have been installed, and work has just begun to repaint and replaster the flaking and peeling water-damaged walls within the church as well as complete restoration of other facets of the building...as seen above.

Some of my information about the church comes from an article in Down East Magazine
"The Cathedral That Nickels and Dimes Built"
By Ellen MacDonald Ward - 1999.

Today, even with the dwindling number of French speakers remaining in Lewiston, there is still one mass each week offered in French. I was fortunate to attend Mass with my cousins Roger and Adrienne Sutton while I was there.


A view from the corner
SS Peter & Paul Parish
27 Bartlett Street
Lewiston, ME 04240
Phone: (207) 777-1200

Office Hours
Monday through Friday
9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

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