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Perched high on the banks of the Mississippi River in Mendota, the tall and majestic white steeple belonging to the historic Church of St. Peter has been an iconic image for more than 170 years, first to those traveling along the river itself and now by commuters and others driving daily across the Mendota Bridge.
According to a document called "A History of St. Peter's Church" written in 1974 by the Reverend John Bauer, a former pastor at St. Peter's, the original incarnation of the first Catholic church in Minnesota was built in 1842. A meager 20 x 40 foot wooden cabin, the building served not only as a chapel but as the residence for Father Lucien Galtier, founding priest.
The current historic church building was constructed in 1853 under the guidance of Father Augustine Ravoux. Stones were hauled up the hill from a quarry along the Mississippi and parishioners pitched in to build the church. The total cost of the project was just over $4,400 and the debt was paid off by 1856, thanks to donations from many including officers and soldiers from nearby Fort Snelling and Henry Sibley.
The exterior of the building has not changed, but the interior has changed several times over the years; the last major renovation took place in the 1970s. The current main church, originally the parish school, was converted into its present form in 1974.
According to Sara Rogers, community life coordinator at St. Peter's, there is a dedicated group of volunteers that help take care of the historic building. Daily Mass is offered there at 9 a.m. Monday through Friday. On Tuesdays, especially during the summer months, short tours and presentations about the history of the church are offered by volunteers immediately following Mass. Contact the church for more information.