A landmark of Phoenix history: St. Mary’s Basilica

St Mary's Basilica, interior.

From the humble beginnings of a small adobe church in 1880 to the classification of a basilica in 1985, St. Mary’s church in downtown Phoenix remains a stoical landmark; now dwarfed by the towering high-rise buildings of the 21st century.

The original steeple-pitched, shingle roof structure measuring a mere 60’x 40’, stood on the current location of what is now the corner of Monroe and Third Streets until 1902.  After 22 years serving the community, the structure needed extensive repairs, not to mention an add-on to accommodate the growing congregation.  Father Novatus, pastor at the time, ordered the demolition of the little adobe church and commenced with the construction of a basement church.

Ceiling detail of St. Mary's Basilica

By 1913 the second phase of construction began over the basement church, using the Mission Revival style exterior with an interior cruciform design.  The 160’ Romanesque style ceiling looms over pews and furnishings of solid oak, and shelters priceless icons of the Catholic religion.

Stained-glass detail.

In 1976 the Arizona Historical Society named St. Mary’s a historical site and added it to the State Inventory of Historic Places of Arizona.  Two years later, with the help of  the State of Arizona Historic Preservation Officer, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The current designation of “basilica” came in 1985 during a visit by  Pope John Paul,  in which he declared St. Mary’s the 32nd minor basilica in the United States.

The towers of St. Mary's Basilica dwarfed by the Chase Building, downtown Phoenix.

Today St. Mary’s Basilica stands humbly in the shadow of our modern society as a tribute to the efforts of early Catholic missionaries.

231 North 3rd Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004-2219


Monday – Friday………10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Saturday………………….10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Sunday…………………….8:00 am – 1:00 pm


About © Rita Boehm

Copyright 2015 Rita Boehm. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Photographs, artwork, and/or related text are available for licensing. Contact writer for further information
This entry was posted in Arizona, history, museums, Phoenix Arizona, photography, renovation, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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