On any given day drivers making their way cross the Twin Cities’ Mendota Bridge might notice the classic church steeple rising above the trees lining the eastern edge of the Minnesota River. The steeple landmark, located just south of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers’ merging (and not far from Fort Snelling), belongs to the Historic Church of St. Peter’s in Mendota which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Minnesota’s oldest Catholic church. The church was built in 1853 at the cost of $4,425.80. The steeple is actually the fourth to top the church and it styled after the second steeple (destroyed by a storm) and proudly boasts the same bronze bell used in the 1880’s. Adults and kids (with the help of a boost) love pulling the thick rope after Mass to hear the chimes.
Renovations. Due to age, wear, and tear, the church was in desperate need of a facelift by 1975. Between 1976-78 the Historic Church’s interior was renovated to look like it did in 1890. The original 1904 stained glass windows were replaced during the 1970’s renovation and are still there today.
Historic Church Today: The Historic Church seats about 250 people and is too small to hold weekend Mass (a new, larger church was built several years ago), however, the older version is still in use. Daily Mass is offered in the Historic Church at 9:00 am with the Rosary starting every morning at 8:40 am. The turnout for daily Mass is pretty impressive with often 60-80 people attending. Every Tuesday following daily Mass is Eucharistic Adoration (seen in photo above) until 6:00 pm.
St. Peter’s Today: If you take the time to visit various Catholic churches in Minnesota you will find an assortment of styles ranging from traditional setups to more contemporary: no kneelers or center tabernacles. Even music varies from guitars to organs to Gregorian chant. St. Peter’s leans more traditional – yes, there are kneelers.
The St. Peter’s community is very active and there always seems to be something going on: family bingo nights, Lenten Fish Fry, Lenten Stations of the Cross, Fall Festival, Women’s Bible Study, Easter Egg Hunt, and even an annual Pow Wow.
I know a lot of families who enjoy visiting churches during their travels and if that’s you I recommend St. Peter’s (especially daily Mass in the Historic Church) as a stop if you’re visiting the Twin Cities. Not only is the history fascinating but the property is gorgeous. Directly across from the entrance of the Historic Church is a prayer garden complete with wind chimes and rocks printed with scripture quotes and if you’re lucky you may encounter the flock of wild turkeys that roam the grounds.