Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Church of Our Lady of Loreto ('Loretto' is alternative spelling)

Click on image titles for larger views.
Institution Name: Saint Mary's College
Original/Historic Place Name: Church of Our Lady of Loretto
Location on Campus: southwest of campus
Date(s) of Construction:
1886original construction Urigeant, Charles
1955renovation and rebuilt Grillo, Paul Jacques
1993redesign Woollen, Evans
Designer: Charles Urigeant (Chicago); Paul Jacques Grillo; Evans Woollen
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Victorian, Modern/post-WWII, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: piers, footing
Walls: brickskin bricks from Ohio, ceramic mosaic tile interior
Roof: slate
1886-present (2006)chapel

The church is modeled after the Santa Maria Carignano, Genoa, Italy, which was designed by Galcazzo Alessi, a student of Michaelangelo.

The Church was built in 1886 to replace the Chapel of Loreto (1859) that was moved to the western back of the building and attached. It is an important center for the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Saint Mary's College students and community. The church is rich with theological meaning and supports a vital ecclesiology. The worshiping community frequently expands to include visitors from all parts of the United States and other areas of the world.

Since its dedication the Church of Loretto has been the spiritual center for the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the students and alumnae of Saint Mary's Academy, and later College, and the other members of these communities. It is a favorite place of worship for many members of the University of Notre Dame and the South Bend area.

History of the Church of Our Lady of Loretto:

1885-1886 Church erected to replace the Chapel of Loreto (1859) which was attached to the west end of the new church

November 12, 1887 First service held

August 29, 1888 Church consecrated

1905 Church refurnished for the Golden Jubilee of Saint Mary's at its current campus.
Wired for electricity that was used for the first time on April 12, 1905. Stations Of the Cross in fresco, confessionals and pews varnished. Altar moved slightly
away from the wall.

1928 Church redecorated for the Diamond Jubilee of Saint Mary's, held in 1930

1941 Church redecorated for the Centenary of the Congregation

December 20, 1954 Cornerstone of new church laid (replica of first church dated March 7, 1955)

May 1, 1956 Renovated and rebuilt church rededicated, Paul Jacques Grillo, architect

January 21, 1960 Permission to have Mass of our Lady of Loreto on December 10, given by
Bishop Pursley

Late 1980's Church renovated to improve accessibility for the physically challenged, to improve intelligibility of speech, to improve lighting, and to address liturgical changes that have occurred since Vatican Council II.

1992-1993 Renovation by Evans Woollen (Indianapolis). The original design of the Church was that of a circle or polygon into which a traditional nave arrangement had been incorporated. Woollen dispensed with the nave design and presents an innovated variation of the round church with a central axis around which the congregants gather.

New liturgical furnishings were designed. The altar and ambo are handcrafted from cherry wood. The baptismal font is crafted from green marble and reflects a baptizing, reconciling community that gathers to celebrate at the Eucharist table. The tabernacle is hand-carved from solid oak and depicts a tree whose columns provide structural and aesthetic support for the mosaic dome that appears to rest on the colonnade. This facilitates visibility for all in the assembly, thus giving a sense of community.

The main axis space from the southwest to the northeast diagonally unifies the entrances and helps create the main axis of the marble baptismal font. The worship space reflects a post-Vatican II understanding of liturgy. As one enters the nave, the mosaic of the walls, develops into four panels, 80 feet in height. They are the Rosary Panel, Our Lady Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Sorrows, and the Tree of Jesse.

The cupola represents the Upper Room where the Apostles were gathered at the Descent of the Holy Spirit. In the twelve stained glass windows, the apostles are depicted with the Pentecostal tongues of fire.

A state of the art sound system with a suspened acoustical disk has resulted in significant acoustical improvement. Mr. Woollen is known for his acoustical design. The seating capacity is 500 persons; but its is adjustable to smaller numbers depending on the liturgical service. Numerous professional groups and committees assisted in the renewal of this magnificent Church of Our Lady of Loretto. The church is the host to many musical programs.


Creek, Sister Mary Immaculate. A Panorama: 1844-1977, Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana. Notre Dame, IN: The College, 1977.

Holy Cross Courier. 1956. Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN.

McCandless, Marion. Family Portraits, History of the Holy Cross Alumnae Association of Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1879-1949. Notre Dame, IN: Saint Mary's College, 1952.

Selected collections. Archives of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN.

Wagner, Monica. Benchmarks: Saint Mary's College, How it Grew. Notre Dame, IN: Saint Mary's College, 1990.


Contact us / About Site / About CIC
© 2006
Council of Independent Colleges
Washington, DC
All rights reserved
Last update: November 2006