Catholic Galena, IL


St. Michael’s Church - A Celebration of 150 Years by Steve Repp 

When the parish of present day St. Michael’s was formed in 1832, Galena was a lead mining town and was known as “one of the roughest places you ever saw or heard of with a good many rough chaps about.” The first pastor assigned here in that year was John McMahon who died of cholera within the first year as did the second pastor Charles Fitzmaurice. The third pastor was Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli who saw the need of a church in Galena and work began in 1835 and was completed in 1842. He also assisted in the construction of many churches in the present day tri-state area. 

One of the worst fires in Galena’s history occurred in April of 1856. It destroyed more than thirty buildings including St. Michael’s Church. But the faith of the people of the parish carried on and work soon began on a new church again under the supervision of Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli. The present church was completed in 1863. Several interesting features to it are the beautiful stain glass windows. The roof and ceiling of the church are supported by a wooden truss formation that is quite unique to the area as there are no supporting pillars in the church. The style of the architecture is Romanesque Revival. The openings on all the windows and doors are rounded arches of a medieval style. The numerous semi-circular arches inside the church are supported by Corinthian columns. 

Fr. Walter Power was the pastor from 1861-69. It was an important decade with the Civil War being fought and the need to complete the construction on the present church. The next pastor, Fr. Patrick Farrelly (1869-1889), continued improvements on the church with additional stain glass windows and a pipe organ. Also during this time the construction of a Catholic school (St. Michael’s-present day Art and Recreation Center) was begun and completed during his time as pastor. Fr. John Shannahan, the eleventh pastor, served the longest period of time from 1893-1928. The shrine of the Little Flower-St. Therese was constructed in 1927. It contains four first-class relics of the Saint. In 1931-32 the church went through a very extensive redecorating process with major painting done on the walls, ceiling and the three altar areas. In 1955 another serious fire burned out the back altar which resulted in another major renovation to the interior of the church. 
The history of St. Michael’s Church over the years includes many good times but also many difficult times with wars, fires and the depression years but the faith of the people of parish has carried on and while remembering its 150th anniversary, St. Michael’s Church continues on not only as a part of the architectural history of Galena but as a spiritual home to all those that attend it’s religious services here.