Sts. Peter and Paul Church, LewistonItem 18373 info
The Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Lewiston was founded in 1871 to serve the exploding immigration to the area from French Canada.
The present church structure, with its twin spires, is a landmark in the Lewiston-Auburn Community.
First St. Peter's Church, Lewiston, ca. 1900Item 18370 info
The first St. Peter Church at Ash and Bartlett streets had a single spire and was built of brick.
When it was replaced, a larger church was built at the same location.
Interior, St. Peter Church, Lewiston, ca. 1900Item 18369 info
Despite the addition of two tiers of balconies and construction of chapel-schools in the Little Canada section of Lewiston and in New Auburn, by the turn of the century, the original Saint Pierre Church was deemed inadequate for what had become Maine's largest Catholic parish.
Rev. Alexandre Louis Mothon, Lewiston, ca. 1900Item 18368 info
In 1881, the Bishop of Maine ceded the sprawling ecclesiastic territory to the Dominican Order from France, which had recently established a North American branch in St. Hyacinthe, Québec.
As a result, Lewiston-Auburn's ever increasing French-Canadian population received a new visionary, if controversial, religious leader from France: Alexandre Louis Mothon.
Dominican Block, Lewiston, ca. 1883Item 18384 info
Under curé Mothon's stewardship, the parish continued to prosper.
A hospital, boys' and girls' orphanages, Maine's first bilingual schools and other religious and social institutions were established.
One of these was the Dominican Block at Lisbon and Chestnut streets that included classrooms on the second and third floors, retail space on the first floor, and a large community room on the fourth floor.
In the photo, boys are lined up to the left, girls to the right, and the nuns are visible in the windows of the second- and third-floor classrooms.
St. Louis Chapel School, New Auburn, ca. 1895Item 18379 info
One of the chapel schools that was built was the Chapelle Ecole d'Auburn in New Auburn.
The Sisters of Sion, also from France, operated the school. According to their constitution, the nuns were not allowed to teach boys past the primary grades.
Therefore, the Franciscan sisters soon replaced them.
Wedding party, Lewiston, 1897Item 18378 info
The Franco-American community continued to grow as shown in this photo from the Little Canada section of Lewiston in 1897, putting increased pressure on St. Peter and Paul Parish.
Other pressures existed as well. Mothon became embroiled in ethnic controversy. The Irish bishop of Maine wanted the parish property returned to the diocese.
Curé Mothon wanted to separate from the Canadian branch of the Dominican Order to found an American, and some critics feared Americanizing, branch in Lewiston with St. Peter's as its headquarters.
Le Messager, Lewiston's influential French language newspaper, called for a French-Canadian bishop, rather than yet another Irish bishop for Maine's Catholics, the vast majority of whom were of French-Canadian descent.
At the very least, Le Messager clamored for a French-Canadian pastor for St. Peter's.
Demolition of first St. Peter's Church, Lewiston, 1905Item 18356 info
By the time of curé Mothon's departure in 1904, the foundation had been laid for his grandiose church.
The Irish episcopate remained in control of the Diocese of Maine, except for St. Peter's, but a French-Canadian pastor was finally named to serve the Dominican parish.
In this photo, workers at the site of the original church run from the scene as more of the building came down than was expected.
Construction, Sts. Peter and Paul, Lewiston, 1934Item 18361 info
Though it took three decades to raise the money to complete the new church, its basement was built and served in the intervening period as the site of religious services.
Sts. Peter and Paul Church construction, Lewiston, 1934Item 18362 info
In the 1930s, when the parish had raised enough funds, construction on the church continued and it began to assume its now familiar shape.
Even after the upper part of the church was completed, services sometimes were held in both the upper church, which seats 1,800, and the lower church, which seats 1,500.
The photo, taken in 1934, shows the steel skeleton of the nave, the main part of the interior of the church.
St. Peter's parochial school, Lewiston, ca. 1964Item 18365 info
While the parish raised money to complete the church, it also conducted a fund-raising campaign to build St. Peter's School, the largest elementary school in the state.
The school was completed in 1925. This photo was taken about 1964.
After years of the building having been vacant and in need of repairs, the Lewiston City Council, which had acquired the property from the diocese, in 2005 faced the dilemma of whether to restore or demolish the school.
After several meetings, the city reluctantly decided to level the building, which had been a landmark fixture on the eastern corner of the city park for 80 years.
Construction, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Lewiston, 1935Item 18359 info
The bishop, unable to regain ownership of the Dominican fiefdom, carved out four new parishes, which significantly diminished the number of communicants at St. Peter's.
The spires of the new church are visible in this photo taken September 22, 1935.
Restoration of Sts. Peter and Paul, Lewiston, 2004Item 18380 info
Seventy years later, when a major renovation of the church was undertaken, scaffolding again covered the spires, reminiscent of the original construction in 1935.
Decorative tile, Lewiston, ca. 1945Item 18391 info
Sts. Peter and Paul was completed in 1935 and dedicated by the bishop in 1938.
This decorative tile is one of many items such as medallions, lapel pins, postcards, paintings and etchings that have featured the facade of the church over the years.
Nave, St. Peter and Paul Church, LewistonItem 18366 info
A note card shows the nave of the upper church of Saint Peter and Paul Church as it originally looked.
Rev. Francois Drouin, Lewiston, ca. 1950Item 18358 info
Father François Drouin, pastor from 1940 to 1952, was a noted theologian, gifted orator and "homme engagé."
Neither a bishop nor an elected official, he nonetheless left an indelible mark on Lewiston-Auburn and beyond.
He cared deeply for the spiritual and corporal needs of his flock, as well as the overall well being of Maine's second-largest community.
Wanting to improve his peoples' socio-economic status and raise their aspirations, he immediately concentrated his efforts on higher education for the young.
St. Dominique School, Lewiston, 1941Item 18367 info
What is now St. Dominic Regional High School was founded within a year of his arrival.
He also became an influential voice in labor negotiations for the mill workers.
The postcard features an image of the school and photographs, left to right, top to bottom, of Rev. Frère Emilien, the director; Rev. Frère Fulbert, professor; Rev. Père F. Drouin, priest; and Rev. Frère Fernand, professor.
Stained glass window, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, LewistonItem 18376 info
Replacing plain colored glass squares, the ten stained glass windows that adorn the upper church are a tribute to Father Drouin's deeply held spirituality.
The Chartes Cathedral style windows were installed February 29, 1948.
This window depicts the Nativity.
Stained glass windows, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Lewiston, 2005Item 18375 info
Drouin, who chose the themes of the windows, wrote that they illustrate the "joyful, the sorrowful and the glorious mysteries of our salvation."
The window pictured depicts "Jesus condemned to death."
Construction discussion, St. Dominic's Hockey Arena, Lewiston, ca. 1949Item 18357 info
Father Drouin succeeded with the high school and the hockey arena, which is now the Colisée, but his efforts were not confined to brick and mortar.
Less tangible yet no less lasting efforts include a credit union, an Interfaith Dialogue, and a social service program, which is now the Tri-County Mental Health Services.
In his final years, Father Drouin was reassigned to Lewiston as a spiritual adviser. He was an early advocate for the University of Maine's presence in Lewiston-Auburn.
A bilingual native of Ottawa, he considered himself a quintessential Canadian, yet he became a naturalized American.
During an early January blizzard in 1986, more than 1,000 people attended his funeral.
Interior of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Lewiston, 2004Item 18374 info
By the 1980s, the upper church was closed during the winter because of prohibitive heating costs.
A dwindling number of inner city parishioners were witness to the crumbling of a historic institution. Destroying such a spectacular Franco-American landmark was unthinkable, yet the preservation effort would require nothing short of a miracle.
St. Peter's parish faced a fateful choice in the early 1990s: demolition or restoration.
The monolithic structure had become unstable. The cost of carting away hundreds of tons of granite was weighed against renovation. Either option would cost millions.
The image shows the renovated nave of the upper church.
Rose window, Sts. Peter and Paul, Lewiston, 2004Item 18381 info
The parish decided to renovate and a campaign was launched to resurrect the elegance and beauty of the original structure.
The towering spires had to be repointed, the heating and electrical systems had to be updated and the rain-damaged interior of the upper church had to be addressed.
The dark interior was meticulously brought back to its original spectacular brilliance.
Sts. Peter and Paul Basilica, Lewiston, 2005Item 18377 info
In 2004, the Vatican designated the church a minor basilica for its historic, social, and cultural significance.
The renovated structure took on new meaning in the community.
Exterior lights that illuminate the church at night make it visible from miles away.
Basilica memorial coin, 2005Item 18385 info
When the basilica was inaugurated on May 22, 2005, festivities included concerts, receptions, a banquet, a lecture, and special votive masses that honored the Dominican priests, brothers and sisters, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, the Sisters of Charity and the Daughters of Wisdom for their contributions to the life and development of the parish.
A memorial coin commemorates the elevation of the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Lewiston to a basilica. One side of the coin reads, "Elevated October 4, 2004 Inaugurated May 22, 2005."
Remembrance card, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, 2005Item 18387 info
A card marks the Mass of Thanksgiving on May 22, 2005 for the Saints Peter and Paul Church when it became a basilica.
With its designation as a basilica, Sts. Peter and Paul was granted its own papal coat of arms that shows the crossed keys of Saint Peter and the pilgrim's canopy -- the Ombrellino.
The fleur-de-lys represents the French- Canadian heritage of the people who built the church.
Sts. Peter and Paul Basilica at night, 2005Item 18421 info
Saints Peter and Paul is the 56th minor basilica in the United States. There are only five major basilicas in the world, all in Italy.
Though it has diminished in population over the years, the parish that to many represents the Franco-American presence and influence in Lewiston-Auburn has grown in stature.