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Here at Saint Mary's, we have a wonderful sense of tradition as we think about not only the saints whose images adorn our altars and line our walls, but also the many generations of believers who have come to this church to worship and pray, to celebrate community, and to find spiritual nourishment and strength. Thanks to them, the faith has been passed on from one generation to the next.


Saint Mary's parish was founded in 1841 by Father Samuel Charles Mazzuchelli (November 4, 1806 - February 23, 1864), a Dominican priest who founded several churches in the tri-state area (Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin) and founded a community of Dominican sisters in Sinsinawa Wisconsin, just across the border from Dubuque Iowa. He built a small wood frame church which was dedicated by Bishop Mathias Loras on July 12, 1841, under the title of Saint Mary of the Assumption.


Fr. Mazzuchelli Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli

AssumptionThe Assumption

Fr. Mazzuchelli had the first small wood frame church building dedicated in 1841 as Saint Mary of the Assumption. Our current church building has a beautiful stained glass window above the balcony and organ, depicting the Assumption.


In 1867 construction began on the present church building. According to historical records, it was built over the church founded by Father Mazzuchelli, which was later dismantled. The "new" church was dedicated on August 15, 1869, under the title of Saint Mary of the Visitation. The cost of the building was $75,000.


Father William Emonds, who was pastor during the time when the church was built, had purchased the ornate high altar which contained the beautiful painting of the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. Hence the name change to Saint Mary of the Visitation. Father (Msgr.) A.J.Schulte, who succeeded Father Emonds as pastor, referred to the church as Saint Mary of the Assumption. The fact remains, however, that the church was consecrated as Saint Mary of the Visitation. This is attested to by the local newspaper, which covered the story of the dedication of Saint Mary of the Visitation Church. Also, the largest bell in our seventeen bell carillon is inscribed with the words (in Latin) Saint Mary of the Visitation.


The Visitation


The Bells of St. Mary's


Our current church building was consecrated in 1869 as Saint Mary of the Visitation

with a beautiful painting of Mary and Elizabeth at the center of the High Altar and one of her 17 bells named for the Visitation.


The local newspaper wrote in great detail about the consecration of the church. The Mass was celebrated with much pomp and ceremony during the morning hours of Sunday, August 15, 1869. That afternoon at 5 p.m., Bishop Hennessy of Dubuque returned to the church for Vespers, and then proceeded to confirm 312 individuals, most of whom were children. It must have been quite a day!


As members of the parish, we are privileged to belong to a community of faith that has so much history. We have grown considerably from the twenty-eight settlers who gathered on December 20, 1840, for the first Mass in Iowa City, celebrated by Father Mazzuchelli. Father Mazzuchelli is now being considered for sainthood, having received the title of "Venerable."


An amusing part of our parish history tells that the community was made up of mostly Irish and German families. It is said that the Irish families sat on the west side of the chuch because St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, stands on the west side of the High Altar, while the German families sat on the East side of the church because St. Boniface, patron saint of Germany, stands on the east side of the High Altar.




Saint Patrick
patron saint of Ireland



Saint Boniface
patron saint of Germany




The two side Altars feature Mary above the Tabernacle (west Side Altar) and Joseph (east Side Altar).


MarySideAlteSt. Bernard, The Blessed Mother with Jesus, St.Bonaventure
TabernacleTabernacle holding the Blessed Sacrament
JosephSideAltarSt. Aloysius, Joseph husband of Mary, St. Anthony of Padua


Today our census lists over 1700 families, representing the largest single-church parish in the Diocese of Davenport with a diverse community of students, families and individuals young and old, that represent many countries around the world.


We don't know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. May the God of endless ages continue to bless us and keep us always in his loving care.



TabernacleProphetsSacred Heart of Jesus
Old Testament Prophets (left to right): Moses, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel

GospelWritersFathersGospel Writers (left to right): St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. John.

The Lamb and the scroll with seven seals from the book of Revelation.

Early church fathers (left to right):
St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Gregory the Great.

JesusMaryJosephFrom the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph:
The Nativity and the Death of Joseph with Jesus and Mary at his side.