Saint Francis of Assisi Parish, a Cream City brick church located on Milwaukee’s North Side, was built in 1876 by German immigrants. Today, the Puerto Ricans worship here. The parish is administered by the Capuchins. This past weekend was Doors Open Milwaukee, and Saint Francis was on the list of holy places in the city to discover. There are many stunning works of art to admire inside the walls of this old church. The large frescos showing scenes from the life of Saint Francis are breathtaking. The elegant woodwork and stained-glass windows are exceptional. I was struck that there were four confessionals along the walls of this relatively small church.

Sadly this architectural gem, so rich in history, was not spared the modernist renovations that defaced countless Catholic churches in America. It seems like the restoration of historic buildings is in vogue everywhere except in Catholic churches. Restore the sanctuary and altar under the apse. Bring back the Communion rail. Reinstall the pews. 

For an excellent book on liturgy and ritual, pick up Uwe Michael Lang’s, Signs of the Holy One: Liturgy, Ritual and Expression of the Sacred.

Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of Assisi

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Choir loft and organ

Choir loft and organ

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High altar

High altar

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This beautiful pieta mosaic is under one of the side altars

There are three confessionals along each side of the interior walls

There are three confessionals along each side of the interior walls

One of the highlights in the church are numerous stunning frescos depicting various scenes in the life of Saint Francis

One of the highlights in the church are numerous stunning frescos depicting various scenes in the life of Saint Francis

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The death of Saint Francis

The death of Saint Francis

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Side chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony

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The stained glass windows are beautiful

The stained glass windows are beautiful

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As is so often the case now, the in-the-round design has taken over. The new altar clearly made from the old Communion rail

Unfortunate in-the-round design. Low altar-table made from Communion rail.