Our Historic Church

History

John Theodore Comès, one of America's most famous architects, designed Saint Thomas More Catholic Church. Comès, a native of Saint Paul, headed the firm of Comès, Perry and McMullen of Pittsburgh and was invited by Archbishop John Ireland to design and oversee the construction of this church building. When Comès died suddenly in 1922, his associate William Perry brought the project to completion. Under the direction of the Walter Butler Co. Inc. of Saint Paul, construction began in 1924 and was completed in 1926. This work was carried out during the pastorate of Msgr. James Byrne. The dedication stone was laid by Archbishop Michael Dowling on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1925. The Mass of Dedication was celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Murray in early October, 1926. The entire work took place during the pontificate of Pius XI, whose coat of arms is carved above the southwest entrance of the church.

Architecture

Saint Thomas More Catholic Church is a notable example of "Romanesque Revival" architecture, which thrived throughout Europe and North America from 1888 to 1930. Romanesque Architecture is a combination of the architectural styles of the Roman and Byzantine empires and flourished throughout Europe and England between the 9th and 12th centuries.

Main Characteristics

  • A basilica floor plan
  • Barrel vault ceilings
  • An apse at one end of the building
  • Apsidal chapels around the apse and/or throughout the nave

Facade

The church is constructed of Indiana Bedford Limestone and measures 198 ft. in length. A glorified cross surmounts the imposing 122 ft. façade on Summit Avenue. Below the cross is the Paschal Lamb and a statue of Saint Luke, the original patron. The great rose window with the symbols of the four evangelists stands at the center of the facade.

West and East Portals

Over the three portals of the facade, the history of Salvation is epitomized. Above the west portal is the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden with Noah's ark below. This west portal is complemented by the east portal of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary above and the ship of the Church below.

Central Portal: Christ in Majesty

The great arch surrounding this image contains fifteen discs, seven of which are symbols of Christ. Carvings of the twelve apostles appear immediately below Christ in Majesty. To the left of the apostles are the prophets and to the right of the apostles are holy men and women from the early and medieval Church. Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac is carved to the left of the center doors and Melchisedech's Offering to the right. The Archangels Michael and Raphael stand to the left and right of central portal.

Top