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This City Has the Oldest Church in Illinois



Illinois has a fascinating secret and a rich history and culture: the Church of the Holy Family in Cahokia Heights is the oldest church in the country. This amazing building is not only a work of architecture but also a symbol of the congregation’s unwavering faith. We’ll explore the illustrious church’s background, unique qualities, and deep significance in this blog post.

The Church s Historical Journey

When Canadian missionaries founded the Church of the Holy Family in 1699, it was a modest timber structure. Regretfully, in 1783, a fire devastated it. Built between 1786 and 1799, the existing church is an excellent example of poteaux-sur-solle French colonial architecture. Using this technique, substantial wooden beams are set on a stone base, with spaces filled in with mud and debris. It is the oldest occurrence west of the Allegheny Mountains and a rare in North America.

From the Louisiana Territory’s admission to the United States in 1803, through the Civil War and the Great Flood of 1993, the church has been there for many significant occasions. Serving as the center of the community, it has played host to a number of rituals and gatherings. The church was recognized as a National Historic Landmark and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 because, despite modifications, it has maintained its historic character.

Distinctive Features of the Church

At roughly 32 by 74 feet, the Church of the Holy Family is a tasteful example of understated elegance. Its external walls are made of walnut timbers, and its interior features oak beam supports for the ceiling, plastered and whitewashed walls, and wooden plank floors. The nave, sanctuary, and two wings make up the church’s basic yet profound layout, which provides a profound area for worship.

Notable artifacts in the church include the oldest painting of the Holy Family in Illinois, the oldest statue of Saint Anthony of Padua in the state carved by a Native American convert, and the only relic of Saint Valentine in the United States, a relic donated by Pope Pius IX in 1866. With burials from the eighteenth century, the church cemetery lends a somber tone to its past.

The Profound Significance

The faith, legacy, and tenacity of its parishioners are embodied in the Church of the Holy Family even beyond its physical location. It is the oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in the United States and welcomes a diverse community that includes immigrants, Native Americans, African Americans, and descendants of French pioneers. Its affiliation with the Christ the King Sovereign Priest Institute is evidence of its dedication to maintaining Catholic customs.

Serving as a hub for both culture and history, the church highlights the impact of French colonialism and adds to the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Additionally, its proximity to the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site strengthens its status as a living museum capturing the early history of both Illinois and the United States.

In Conclusion

A hidden treasure in Illinois, the Church of the Holy Family is a must-see for those who are interested in religion, history, and architecture. Being the oldest church in the United States, it is a singular example of French colonial architecture. In addition to its historical value, the church is a vibrant parish that honors its rich history. It welcomes everyone to learn about its ongoing significance, history, and features. As a monument to the concept of the holy family and a true gem of Illinois, it is open for tours, Masses, and activities.

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