Skip to comments.Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel, Loretto, PA
Posted on 02/11/2006 4:05:11 PM PST by Teˇfilo
Final resting place of the Servant of God, Demetrius Agustine Gallitzin.
Folks, today I was driving around the area and stopped in Loretto, PA, at the Franciscan Mission Store, a great Catholic bookstore and on my way out, decided to take this picture of the exterior of the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel. I want to share that image with you, along with some interesting facts. (Click on the first two pictures to make them larger)
"St. Michael" was the name Father Gallitzin gave his parish church in honor of St. Michael the Archangel, and in remembrance of Michael McGuire, the first settler in Loretto in 1788. Fourch churches had been built on this location, though no exactly on the same place. The first one in 1799, built of white pine logs. The second in 1817 was of frame construction. The first two sat in the same location at the western terminus of the graveyard, as seen by the stone foundation outline remaining from the frame church. The third church, built in 1854, was built of brick. Finally, in 1901 the fourth church was made of of stone, and it shared the present location with the third church. Its construction began on January 10, 1900 and occupancy was granted October, 1901, being consecrated on October 2, 1901. There are twelve crosses to mark the 12 places where the walls were anointed with holy chrism. The crosses are a memorial and testimony to its consecration. There were also 12 candle sconces placed below each consecrated cross.
The basilica was built in Romanesque (rounded arches) with Gothic features (pointed arches) and is built in the shape of a Latin Cross or Cruciform; the foundation stone was locally quarried and is approximately 2 feet X 6 inches thick. The outside walls are made of Ohio cut Sandstone built around a brick casing totaling a width of approximately 2 feet. The roof is curved Akron red tile. The tower is 32 feet square surmounted by an arcaded belfry and topped with a bronze cross. (Source). On Sept. 9, 1996, Pope John Paul the Great raised this parish church to the status of a minor basilica. (Source)
I also took a picture of the statue erected in honor of Prince Demetrius Agustine Gallitzin, which rises right above his resting place.
Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin was born of a Russian prince of Lithuanuan roots and a German countess in the Hague, Netherlands on December 22, 1770. He left his claim to nobility and came to America in 1792. Wishing to serve God as a priest, he became a student at Saint Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. On March 18, 1795, Bishop John Carroll ordained Father Gallitzin, the first priest to receive all his orders in preparation for priesthood in the United States of America.
He initially arrived in the mountains of west central Pennsylvania on a sick call to the McGuire Settlement. He persistently sought his bishop's permission to serve as this community's pastor. On March 1, 1799, Bishop Carroll assigned Father Gallitzin as resident pastor of the settlement in the mountains. The pioneer priest later renamed the place Loretto after the Marian shrine in Italy.
After finishing his education he was appointed aide-de-camp to the Austrian General von Lillien, but as there was no opportunity for him to continue a military career his parents resolved that he should spend two years in traveling through America, the West Indies, and other foreign lands. Provided with letters of introduction to Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore, and accompanied by his tutor, Father Brosius, afterwards a prominent missionary in the United States, he embarked at Rotterdam, Holland on August 19, 1792, and landed in Baltimore, Maryland on October 28. To avoid the inconvenience and expense of traveling as a Russian prince, he assumed the name of Schmet, or Smith, and for many years was known in the United States as Augustine Smith. Soon after arriving at Baltimore, he was deeply impressed with the needs of the Church in America. He resolved to devote his fortune and life to the salvation of souls in the country of his adoption. Despite the objections of his relatives and friends in Europe, he, with the approval of Bishop Carroll, entered St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore as one of its first students. St. Mary's had been founded the previous year (1791) by Sulpician priests, refugees from France. On March 18, 1795, Demetrius was ordained a priest, being the first to receive in the limits of the original thirteen of the United States all the orders from tonsure to priesthood.
After forty-one years spent on the rugged heights of the Alleghenies, he died as he had lived: poor. On coming to McGuire's Settlement he found a dense wilderness; he left it dotted with fertile farms. Servant of God Demetrius Gallitzin was buried, according to his desire, midway between his residence and the church (they were about thirty feet apart); in 1847 his remains were transferred to a vault in a field nearer the town, over which a humble monument was erected out of squared blocks of rough mountain stone. In 1891 his remains were taken from the decayed coffin of cherry wood and placed in a metallic casket; in 1899, on the occasion of the centenary celebration of the foundation of the Loretto Mission, the rude monument was capped by a pedestal of granite, and this in turn by a bronze statue of the prince-priest, donated by Charles M. Schwab, who also built the large stone church, which was solemnly consecrated October 2, 1901. (Source)
I hope you enjoyed this little travelogue!
- Visit the website of the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel.
- Visit the official website of the Servant of God, Demetrius Augustine Gallitzin.
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