St. Mary of The Visitation Catholic Church is a historic church located in Huntsville which is the largest city of Madison County, Alabama. This church was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Having a long heritage of faithfulness and generous service as well as being built up in Romanesque Revival Style, St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church is not only an ideal place for Christian, but also for visitors.
Huntsville is known as the site of the convention that drew up the first
constitutions of Alabama in 1819. Belong to Madison County, St. Mary of the
Visitation Catholic Church has a rich Catholic history and great succession of
thirty-three pastors in the oldest parish stretches from 1860 to the present
date. Besides, Huntsville is also listed in the Catholic Directory by Sadlier
because it was area where hosted one of the missions of North Alabama,
especially the priests from Nashville Diocese attended in this mission from
1845 to 1851.
Based on the early history of St. Mary of Visitation Parish, St. Mary of
the Visitation Parish is a symbol of faithfulness and generous service within
the parish as well as to the local community. The St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic
Church was named in honor of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth as described in
Luke's Gospel (1).
October 10, 1860, Father Jeremiah F. Trecy came to this area to serve in the
Diocese of Mobile. Then in July, 1861, the parish was established by Fr.
Jeremiah Trecy. Father
Jeremiah F. Trecy was born in Ireland and had been ordained a priest in
Dubuque, Iowa in 1851. With great experience in gathering congregations and
building a church in Iowa, he worked as an assistant for Bishop John Quinlan
and was sent to establish a parish in Huntsville. In 1861, the first
cornerstone of the church was laid. On May 1861, the request for fund raising
to build a Catholic Church was sent to the community and the oral history
proved that eleven Catholic families were the original parish who worked hard
to build up the church. However, the Church’s construction was suspended during
the Civil War. Father Trecy and parishioners were helping to prepare hospital
facilities and tend to the wounded for both sides during the battle. Afterward,
Father Trecy became a chaplain to General Rosecrans until 1868 and kept continuing
his journey to the the battlefields of Luka, Corinth and Stone River.
The dedication of Father Trecy was impossible to count, after returning
from the war, Father Trecy got permission from Bishop Quinlan to raise funding
for completing the construction of the church. Maryland, Michigan and other
states were the great destinations for raising funds in his journey. At that
time, Father John B. Baasen was in charge of the parish. And finally, the
church was completed before 1872 except the fresco. On November 11, 1877, it
was dedicated by Bishop Quinlan.
According to early history of Visitation Parish, the
church was built by native stone from nearby Monte Sano Mountain. These stone
were hauled by mule cart and wagon. St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church
was built in Romanesque Revival style. This style of architecture was popular
in the U.S from 1870 to 1900 (1). The exterior design is characterized by two
main structures, the steep gabled roof and two hexagonal stone towers. There
are north tower and south tower. The north tower housed the bell (1). The main
entrance, the present doors, and all the windows also has an attractive and
meaningful designs. And the interior design is highlighted by the barrel vault over
the center aisle of the tree-aisle nave and the unusual capitals of the columnns (1). And there are many attractive designs and structure that promised to bring
Christian families and the visitors closer to symbol of faithfulness and generous service.