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St. Michael's

(Catholic, Rochester NY) In 1835, a year after Rochester was incorporated as a city, a local census recorded 600 German Catholics as residents. Definitely minorities, they had reason to feel they were not welcome in the Rochester community. Leaders in the German communities began encouraging their people to hold on to their language and culture. Their priests were convinced that this would be necessary to help them preserve their faith. The concept of America as a melting pot was not to rise and flourish for decades.

The Rochester Diocese had been formed in 1868, with a segment of eight counties being taken from the Buffalo Diocese to form the new See of Rochester. A vigorous 45-year old bishop, Bernard McQuaid, was its first head.

In 1887, the priests and people of St. Michaelís made a major decision. The time had come to draw up the plans for that big church they had been dreaming of. They would settle for nothing but the best. It would be a Gothic masterpiece, as magnificent as any famous European cathedral. The church would be built in the shape of a Latin cross. It would 177 feet long and 92 feet in height. The cross at the top of the tapering 220-foot spire would be ten feet high. The ten large stained glass windows depicting scenes from biblical stories of angelic appearances were to be made in Germany. On May 27, 1888 the cornerstone was laid under the spot where the main altar now stands. The construction crew had no machinery, no powered tools, no motorized transportation. Yet they managed, and two years after the cornerstone was laid, on the feast of St. Michael, September 29, 1890, the first Mass was celebrated in the New Church