St. Mary's Church
Founded in 1832, St. Mary’s Parish is the oldest Catholic parish in New Haven. The church (originally called Christ Church) was dedicated in 1834, but only fourteen years later, it caught fire and burned down. Construction of the Gothic Revival-style church in its new Hillhouse Avenue location began in 1870 under Irish-American architect James Murphy. The new church, now named St. Mary’s, was dedicated in 1874. Not long afterward, St. Mary’s priest Father Michael McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charitable society. The church steeple was added in 1982 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Knights of Columbus. The church is managed by Dominican friars from the Province of St. Joseph.
Backstory and Context
Architect James Murphy (1834-1907) designed dozens of churches in New England. His designs also include St. John's Church in Stamford, CT; Sacred Heart in Springfield, MA; and St. Patrick's Church (now Cathedral) in Norwich, CT.
St. Mary's appears in Elizabeth Kostova's 2005 novel The Historian, described as "a homely little piece of Victoriana" where the protagonist hopes she will find help in her struggle with vampires: after all, "Didn't Catholicism deal with blood and resurrected flesh on a daily basis?"
Kostova, Elizabeth. The Historian. New York: Little, Brown, and Co., 2005. Chap. 20.
Stanton, Phoebe. The Gothic Revival and American Church Architecture: An Episode in Taste, 1840-1856. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1968.