St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church
Backstory and Context
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).
On 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.