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Church of the Immaculate Conception

The Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods is dedicated to Mary under the title of Immaculate Conception.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception, consecrated in 1907, is a majestic limestone structure filled with beautiful paintings, stained glass, sculpture and art. Construction of the church began in 1886 with the laying of the corner­stone. D.A. Bohlen and Son of Indianapolis, architects, completed the exterior of the Indiana limestone building in 1891. By June 1892, plastering had been done and the installation of a temporary wooden floor, seats and altars permitted the sisters to worship in the Italian Renaissance style edifice. It would be another sixteen years to complete the interior of the church.

In 1902, the General Council, under the leadership of General Superior Mother Mary Cleophas Foley, focused its attention on the interior decoration of the church. Mother Mary Cleophas and General Councilor Sister Mary Alma O’Donald visited numerous churches in Europe, gathering many ideas for their church nestled in the Woods. Inspired by their travels, the two sisters returned home and soon artisans and craftsmen were employed to transform the church from a building to a truly sacred place of worship.Religious dignitaries, including Bishop Francis Silas Chatard, and guests poured into the church Oct. 23, 1907, when it was consecrated.

Thaddeus von Zukoynski painted all of the paintings in the church. He was Polish and graduated from the Academy of Arts in Munich, Germany. There are four major paintings. In the semi-dome in the front section of the church is a painting of The Immaculate Conception and the four Evangelists. There is a painting of The Ascension of Our Lord on the ceiling above the main seating area. The two other paintings located near the front of the church are The Return from Calvary and The Flight into Egypt.

Stained glass windows can be seen on each side of the church. They were made by the Bavarian Art Institute of Munich, Germany. They portray events of Christ and his mother Mary, as well as scenes from the Old Testament. The stained glass windows in the upper balcony display scenes of angels.

Some of the first items installed in the church were the Stations of the Cross. They were made in Munich, Germany.

The church is the home of an organ purchased from William Schuelke Church Organ Builder of Milwaukee.

Appearing to rise from the crucifix, the figure of Jesus is located up high at the front. Harry Breen of Champaign, Illinois, sculpted it and it was installed in 1991.

One hundred years after the laying of the cornerstone, the church underwent a transformation not only to conform with the liturgical norms of the Second Vatican Council, but also to strengthen the floor joists. As with the building of the church, this renovation was accomplished with the monetary assistance of many donors.

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Upon their arrival, the firs thing Saint Mother Theodore and her postulates did was seek out a Log Cabin Chapel, which would serve as their very first "convent".

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