St Ignatius Loyola Church
St Ignatius makes a statement, as a work of architecture and in areas of social justice. The architects built this structure as an ode to a church in Cork, Ireland. From the 1920s-1940s it served as a Jesuit Parish and a Catholic Church. Jesuit leader William Markoe refused to give in to pressures from his superiors to segregate the church. Servicing a largely African American community the church insisted on supporting both integration and the nascent civil rights movement following World War II. Father Edward Murphy S.J continued Markoe's work. He won awards for encouraging good relations between the African American community and the larger community of Denver.
Backstory and Context
This church is located on the North edge of City Park. It is a work of art, with beautiful redbrick and twin spires. The church was built by the notable Frank W. Frewen and Frederick J. Mountjoy. This church has a long history of supporting racial integration, met with opposition by leadership in the Denver Catholic Church.
The church opened doors in 1924. It was built by Frank W. Frewen and Frederick J Mountjoy. Frewen was homegrown in the Whittier neighborhood. He attended Manual Trade School and went on to design 80 buildings in Denver. Together Frewen and Mountjoy designed several notable structures in Denver: Elbert and Park Hill Elementary Schools and the Fairmount Cemetery Communal Mausoleum. This is the only example of Gothic-style completed by the duo.
It was built in the late Gothic Revival style. The church is modeled after a church in Cork, Ireland. This church is built on the west side of York Street, on a hill. It demands attention. The exterior features red brick laden twin spires. Five hand-stenciled stained glass windows decorate the Church.
St Ignatius began as the Jesuit Sacred Hearts Parish in 1879. Sacred Heart grew very rapidly and moved to share the Catholic Loyola Chapel. Eventually both were moved to a larger location at St. Ignatius on York and 23rd. In 1939 the basement of the church was used as an elementary school. Plans to build an actual school were made, but in lieu of the Great Depression the school wasn’t completed until 1954. This school mostly catered to African American children.
After World War II Jesuit Father William Markoe, was leader of St. Ignatius. He insisted on integration in the church. Catholic leadership in Denver ordered them not to work with African Americans. From 1950-1970 the next pastor of Loyola, Fr Edward Murphy, S.J. worked hard to keep the neighborhood integrated. In 1965 he earned a Reward of Merit, from the George Washington Carver Memorial Institute in Washington DC. It was for “outstanding contributions to the betterment of race relations and human welfare.” He went on to be named “Man of Year” by the National Negro Voters Educational Council.
In 1994 this church was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today it stands as a testament to the graciousness of its congregation. They raised $1 million to renovate the church and make it accessible for those with disabilities.
- Churches in the Whittier and San Rafael, St Ignatius Loyola. Accessed June 14th 2020. https://history.denverlibrary.org/whittier-neighborhood-and-san-rafael-historic-district.
- St Ignatius Catholic Church, History of Colorad. Accessed June 19th 2020. https://www.historycolorado.org/location/st-ignatius-catholic-church.
- St. Ignatius Loyola Parish, Jesuits. Accessed June 19th 2020. https://jesuits.org/Parish-Center-Detail?TN=CODE-20130729083730.