The Artwork and International History of St. John’s Nepomuk Chapel, St.Louis

Mark / Architecture, History / / 0 Comments / Like this

This is my second group of photographs I am sharing which captured during my visit to St. John’s Nepomuk Chapel in St.Louis. Some of these photos were part of my Churches Under God project, where I photographed and wrote about the history of a few of St.Louis’ oldest churches. St. John’s has a long, rich history as the 1st Czech Catholic Church in America. It served as a uniting force for immigrants coming to America and St.Louis in the mid 1800’s. They built a school and a printing press, and conducted services in multiple languages.

At a point in St. John’s history of great success it was stricken by the Tornado of 1896. This is an excerpt from my article on St. John’s history from

It was at the church’s height in 1896 when about 1000 people were affiliated with the church in some way and almost 800 children were attending the school. The parish had grown so much that it sparked the founding of a new parish by Father Hesson, St. Wenceslaus. All of St. John’s buildings were in first class shape; its 2 large schools, Sisters’ house, rectory, church, parish hall, and all debts were nearly paid off.

It was also around this time when the Tornado of 1896 tore through south St. Louis and destroyed a number of churches, with St. John Nepomuk being one of the worst damaged. The church was nearly completely leveled except for the front wall of the main entrance where the date “1870” remained.

When we of today glance at the 1870 above the entrance to our church, we can be reminded of the struggles of the Catholic Church in that fateful year, and of its ultimate triumph; and also of the brave struggles of the parishioners of that day who made such a great sacrifices, in which we share today, for the fruits of those sacrifices are our inheritance. May we of today be worthy of that heritage!” – Rev. Albert J. Prokes in 125th Jubilee of St. John Nepomuk Church (1979).

What began as a mission of founding a church for the Bohemian Hill neighborhood in 1854 had grown to be one of the most popular Christian churches to welcome immigrants from all over Europe. From

One very important mission that Father Hesson felt that St. John Nepomuk Parish could serve was to unite immigrants who did not have a church of their own. In an effort to preserve the faith of Poles, Slovaks, Ukrainians, Croatians and Slovenes, he welcomed them to St. John’s and helped guide them to founding their own parishes. This was also further accomplished by joining the Catholic Central Union in 1877.

What’s makes the story of St. John’s Nepomuk Chapel so amazing is that in its prime, the church really did serve as the center of its community. It provided a place for education and socialization for all in the community, members and non-members alike. It truly served as a moral compass for those troubled and challenging times. St. John’s success served as a testament to what enormous obstacles can be accomplished when neighbors unite, for even its financial support came from the working class immigrants in the community.

There is simply too much beautiful artwork and views to see to do justice by photographs alone. It is truly a church worth visiting in person. And when you go, pick a sunny day, you’ll be glad you did.

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