Basilica Saints Peter and Paul

122 Ash St Lewiston

Franco-American Lewiston, ME: About Town/Basilica Saints Peter and Paul
Franco-American Collection
Written By Franco-American Collection

The Basilica Saints Peter and Paul: 122 Ash St.

One of the unifying cultural connectors between Franco-Americans, besides their French language, is their Catholic faith. The French-Canadians who immigrated to Lewiston to work in the textile mills founded St. Peter and Paul parish, and built this, the second largest church in New England. It is also the oldest French speaking catholic parish in the Diocese of Portland.

The Diocese sent the first permanent French speaking priest to the area in 1857. By 1867 the Catholic community had built their first church, Saint Joseph’s, on Main Street in Lewiston. By 1873, a second church, Saint Peter’s, was built where the basilica stands today, but even that became overcrowded as more and more French-Canadians came.

After requesting one set of plans for a church and then deciding they needed a basilica because of the growing numbers of congregants, by 1904 the Bishop of Portland stepped in and ordered the pastor to begin construction of the cathedral designed by a local Francophile, Noel Coumont, originally from Belgium.

They started the basement in the fall of 1905, which Coumont supervised. His involvement in the building ended by that winter when it was discovered that he had dug the foundation in the wrong direction. By the end of December,1906 the basement or crypt was completed. The construction of the actual building took longer, for many reasons. One of these was a fight between Maine Catholics over whether their new bishop should be Irish or French. During the fight the planned basilica was used as a symbol of French nationalism.

When the dust settled and a new, Irish, bishop took over in Portland, Coumont’s plans were scrapped and a new set of plans were accepted from the boston architect T.G. O’Connell in 1928. The cornerstone was laid in 1934, and the basilica before you was completed in 1938.

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Franco-American Lewiston, ME: About Town

Basilica Saints Peter and Paul

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