In November, Andrea Jenkins made history as the first openly transgender woman of color elected to public office in the United States. She was elected to the Minneapolis City Council. Phillipe Cunningham is the first transgender man elected to a mayor’s city council. He, too, now serves on the Minneapolis City Council. The city is well-known for its LGBT pride events, a strong performing arts scene and for its concentration of Fortune 500 companies. What may not be as well-known is its place in history for its religious buildings and congregations.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church
This church combines three different architectural styles. The original building was based on a Greek Temple in the Greek Revival style. The builders quarried limestone locally to construct the church in the mid-1800s. Universalists constructed this building, but later sold it to a Catholic congregation. The Catholics added elements, such as a steeple, bell tower and vestibule, in the Gothic Revival and French Provincial style. Even though the building changed hands, it is still the oldest continually used church in the city. In 1934, it was named a historic landmark; 34 years later, it was scheduled to be closed but the city council persuaded the church to keep the building open.
St. Mary's Orthodox Cathedral
This Eastern Orthodox church began in 1887. Sadly, the original building of the church was destroyed by fire in 1904. The church today is a fine example of architecture, but the real draw is its heritage. This congregation created the first Russian Orthodox seminary in the United States. It also opened a missionary school.
This congregation originally called itself Shaarai Tov, which means “Gates of Goodness.” It was founded in 1878, but the original building burned down. The synagogue, which is still used today, was built in the Neoclassical Revival style in 1928. One rabbi established a Jewish art gallery and museum on the Temple grounds. Its library is well-known in the Jewish community. Today, the synagogue houses one of the largest Jewish congregations in the U.S.
Atheists for Human Rights
This organization, while not religious in nature, deserves a mention due to its beautiful geodesic dome as its headquarters. Buckminster Fuller, the architect, was known for these lattice shell structures that utilized principles of nature to find design solutions. It’s a beautiful building that is the headquarters for an association that fights for the rights of the nonreligious.
North Central University
Jim and Tammy Bakker met at this Assemblies of God university that also boasts Dallas Holm as an alum. It was founded in 1930 and consistently ranks high in best Christian college lists. One of its best programs is the American Sign Language or Deaf Studies program, which was going to be phased out, but a generous donor gave enough money to the university to prevent it from ending.
Basilica of Saint Mary
Pope Pius XI named this basilica in 1926, but its cornerstone was laid in 1908. It took five years to finish the building, constructed in the Classical Revival style. Rockville granite forms the foundation of the church. White Vermont granite forms the sides. When Pius established the church as a basilica, it took its place as the first one in the United States.
The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, due to its excellent architectural design. It includes some beautiful design elements, such as a wrought iron grille that surrounds the sanctuary and contains symbols from the life of Mary. The marble pillars that support the grille were imported from Italy, as were the marble statues around the sanctuary of the apostles. The stained-glass windows were designed, made and installed by Thomas J. Gaytee, who came to Minneapolis as a salesperson for Tiffany. His studio still takes care of the windows.