Guido Beck’s St. Columbkille Catholic Church

Guido Beck’s St. Columbkille Catholic Church

St. Columbkille Catholic Church

Built 1904 – 1905

Located at 1240 Rush Street

Four years after the completion of the St. Anthony Church, the Archdiocese of Dubuque again commissioned Dubuque architect, Guido Beck to design his second church in Dubuque for the parish of St. Columbkille. The St. Columbkille Church was built between 1904 and 1905 in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. Prior to the establishment of the parish, Bishop Hennessy invited four Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to open the West Hill School in 1879, which was shortly after named St. Vincent. In 1887, Bishop Hennessy established the new parish under the holy patronage of St. Columbkille to accommodate the growing population and those living on the West Hill. Unlike the St. Anthony parish which consisted primarily of German parishioners in the “West Dubuque” area, the St. Columbkille parishioners were primarily Irish in an area known as “Little Dublin” and “West Hill.”


St. Columbkille Catholic Church circa 1910. (Photo Courtesy: St. Columbkille Church, Alice Noethe, and Sue Schmitt; Encyclopedia Dubuque)

Father John Fogarty was the initial pastor and soon ordered the construction of a small frame church that lasted 17 years. A June 20, 1904 Telegraph-Herald article mentioned that the original church was not an “admirable example of church architecture, nevertheless the simple little structure was satisfactory to Father Fogarty and his parishioners.” In 1903, Archbishop Keane hired Beck to design a new church to again accommodate the growth of the parish. Beck’s design called for towering vaulted ceilings and colorful stained glass windows within the Gothic structure.

The cornerstone for the new church was laid in place on June 19, 1904. Bishop Patrick O’Donnell, of Raphoe, Ireland, and good friend of Archbishop Keane, donated the stone as a gift to the parish. Bishop O’Donnell was of the same lineage as St. Columbkille and, according to Archbishop Keane, “always takes much pride in having the honor to show his reverence for the memory of St. Columbkille.” The 2,200 pound sandstone cornerstone was taken from the St. Charles quarry in Ireland. The Telegraph-Herald noted that “the laying of the cornerstone of the magnificent new St. Columbkill’s church on West Hill this afternoon will undoubtedly attract the largest concourse of Catholics that ever attended any similar event in the history of the city.” A procession of the Catholic societies in town began at Fourth and Main Streets and marched towards the Archbishop’s house to escort him up the hill to St. Columbkille.


Photo from St. Columbkille Church calendar. Date unknown. (Photo Courtesy: St. Columbkille Church, Alice Noethe, and Sue Schmitt; Encyclopedia Dubuque)

On the occasion of the June 19 cornerstone dedication, a Telegraph-Herald article gave a detailed description of the design, construction, and interior layout: “The basement and foundation walls are built up with Dubuque quarry stone. The whole structure above the basement will be built with Dubuque brick. All the cut stone trimmings will be of Bedford, Indiana, limestone and the cornices and gable moldings, etc., of galvanized iron. Mr. Tom Byrne and Ed McClain are the general contractors of the whole building. Both gentlemen are members of St. Columbkille’s parish. The Klauer Mfg. Co. will furnish all the metal work. The cut stone work will be done by Doran and Wagner.


Inside St. Columbkille Church (2015)

The principal dimensions of the new church are as follows: The main body of the church is 108 feet long by 60 feet wide. The total length, including sanctuary and tower projection, is 141 feet. The tower is 17×17 feet square and 150 feet high from the top of the water table to the top of the (cross) spire. The seating capacity of the auditorium is 700 to 750. The sanctuary is 29 feet wide and 25 feet deep. To both sides of the sanctuary are quite roomy sacristies.
A passageway behind the high altar connects these sacristies. Besides the two sacristies there is on the left side of the sanctuary a chapel for the sisters. The wall between the sanctuary and the sisters’ chapel contains a large, overarched opening. This opening will be decorated with artistic gothic ornamental work and art stained glass. Three large double doors form the main entrances to the auditory, leading through the vestibule. From one vestibule one little room is cut off for an office. A gallery for the organ and choir is most beautifully arranged. The rows of graceful columns carry the roof and the Gothic arch system. The main nave and sanctuary are 40 feet high in the clear and the side naves are 27 feet. The basement under the whole building is 14 feet high in the clear, and is divided into a meeting hall and winter chapel. Between said hall and chapel.”

Detail of the Screen that separated the Sanctuary and where the Nuns sat. (2015)

Detail of the wall between the sanctuary and the sisters’ chapel. (2015)

The structure was estimated to cost $30,000 exclusive of furnishings and interior decorations. The same article mentioned that the new church will “represent the growth of Catholicity on West’s Hill and will be an admirable testimonial to the untiring efforts of an energetic pastor for the propagation of the faith.” Unfortunately, the steeple met the same fate as that of St. Anthony’s church and was never built.


Drawing of the proposed St. Columbkille Church with Steeple. (Photo Credit: Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 20, 1904; P. 7)


The beautiful stained glass windows are from the Ford Brothers Glass Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Ford Brothers were known for incorporating opalescent glass into Munich style windows.  “The frescoes on the church ceiling were painted in the 1920s by Bernard Hillig, a graduate of the Fine Arts Academy of Copenhagen. The Stations of the Cross, hand-painted murals on Zinc, were imported from Germany. A Wangerin Wickhardt pipe organ was installed in 1922.” – From Dubuque Encyclopedia. Koch, Kevin. “Saint Columbkille Catholic Church,” Strasbourg, France, Editions du Signe, 2011, p. 20.

Guido Beck’s St. Anthony Catholic Church

Guido Beck’s St. Anthony Catholic Church

St. Anthony Catholic Church

Built 1900

Located at the corner of Rosedale and St. Ambrose Streets

Stained Glass inside St. Anthony's (circa 2016)

Stained Glass inside of St. Anthony’s (2016)

Dubuque architect, Guido Beck designed St. Anthony Church in 1900 in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. The St. Anthony Parish was formed in 1868 and underwent a number of name changes. The parish was initially known as St. Malachi and subsequently changed to St. Aidan, St. Ambrose, and finally St. Anthony.  The first parish building was a school, also serving as the parish church until the construction of an addition in 1881 for worship space. The present church was built during Father O’Malley’s pastorate and was dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua in 1900.

The parish was located in an area known as “West Dubuque” at the time of construction and primarily served German immigrant families. An April 15, 1900, Des Moines Register article noted the lowest bidders for construction and the total cost: “Brick work, Joseph Skemp & Son; cut stone work, Schulte & Son; carpentry, lumber and mill work, iron and hardware, Klauer Manufacturing company; plastering, Th. M. Cosgrove, Rev. Father P. O’Malley, pastor, G. Beck, architect. Cost, $14,000.” Beck’s initial rendering called for a tall, decorative steeple on the northwest corner of the building. However, the steeple was never built likely due to lack of funds. In 1904, Beck designed a similar steeple for Holy Angels Church in Roselle, Iowa, providing an example of what the St. Anthony’s steeple would have looked like if it had been completed.

Mural of St. Anthony (circa 2016)

Mural of St. Anthony (2016)


Inside of St. Anthony’s (2016)








The interior of St. Anthony’s is beautifully decorated with stained glass windows from the Chicago stained glass company of Flanagan and Biedenweg.  The windows tell the story of the life of Christ. In the 1930s, Fr. O’Malley contracted with two artists from Italy to complete a series of paintings that are symbolic representations of the four cardinal virtues: Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, and Prudence.

Original design for St. Anthony's (circa 1900)

Original design for St. Anthony’s (circa 1900)


Architect of the Month: Guido Beck, October 2016

Architect of the Month: Guido Beck, October 2016

Guido Beck (1853 – 1936), was a Dubuque architect who specialized in the architecture of churches and schools. Beck was born on January 25, 1853, in Hohenzollern, Germany where he received his early education and later studied architecture at Stuttgart and the University of Heidelberg. As a young architect, he was awarded the position of superintendent and was given one of his first building commissions by the German government to construct an asylum at Schussenried, Germany.  Beck completed the asylum in 1882, and then, against the wishes and advice of all his friends, left his native country and immigrated to the United States. He thought his chances for success were infinitely greater and the field for work much broader in the U.S.

G. Beck

Portrait of Guido Beck

Upon his arrival to the United States, Beck traveled to Rock Island, Illinois and worked as a stone-cutter in the government arsenal. There he familiarized himself with the language and customs, thoroughly mastering the American style of architecture.   With the knowledge he already possessed, Beck quickly became one of the foremost architects in the State of Iowa. In 1885 he came to Dubuque and partnered first with fellow German émigré architect Fridolin Heer.  After a few years, he left the partnership to develop his own architecture practice.  With the booming Catholic population, Beck specialized in church architecture.  He designed over 100 church buildings throughout the region, one as far away as Bozeman, Montana.  Beck-designed churches are found throughout the State of Iowa.  His preferred architectural style was the Gothic Revival style, with its pointed arches and soaring steeples.

Among the notable Dubuque buildings, Beck designed St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, St. Columbkille Catholic Church, St. Joseph Chapel at Loras College, Holy Ghost Church, St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the mortuary chapel at St. Raphael Cathedral. Beck also designed many parochial schools and residences including the St. Raphael School on Bluff Street, recently converted into apartments. Beck also designed the following churches in the surrounding area: St. Clement Church in Bankston, St. Joseph Church in Bellevue, St. Martin Church (now St. Matthias Church) in Cascade, and St. Joseph Church in Rickardsville.

John Mullany’s New Malleray Abbey Monastery

John Mullany’s New Malleray Abbey Monastery

New Melleray Abbey Monastery

Built: 1867 – 1870

Located in Peosta, Iowa at 6632 Melleray Circle

New Melleray Abbey Peosta

Corner view of the pointed windows and detailed stone work

Architect John Mullany is credited with the design of New Melleray Abbey. The New Melleray Abbey began with the Trappist monks who had left their home at the Mount Melleray Abbey in Ireland.  The monks left Ireland in the midst of the Great Famine in the late 1840s. Sailing to North America in search of a monastic site, they eventually came to the Iowa frontier, east of Dubuque where Bishop Loras offered them six hundred acres of land to settle. John Mullany’s brother, Patrick also emigrated to the United States and the Dubuque area. Patrick entered the Trappists, taking the name Brother Stanislaus. He was one of the original monks who founded the New Melleray Monastery at Peosta.

New Melleray Abbey Peosta 2

North Tower of the Abbey

Mullany’s plans called for four buildings of stone to be erected in the form of a square surrounding a court one hundred feet long by one hundred feet wide.  An 1871 Dubuque Daily Times article noted that “the stupendous monastery at New Melleray will be gazed upon, written about and pondered over by generations yet unborn. It is, in reality a gigantic pile of stone and mortar, tower and pinnacle, and when fully completed, according to the programme laid out by the projectors, will cover not less than three acres of ground, and with the exception of its twin brother in Nelson County, Kentucky, will be the largest institution of the kind in the world.”

The southern wing was intended to be the location of an imposing abbey church.  However, only the north and east buildings were constructed according to Mullany’s plans.  The north wing was originally intended to be the refectory, but became the Abbey church.  It remains a stunning example of Gothic Revival design with its stone construction and pointed arch windows.

John Mullany’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church

John Mullany’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church

St. Mary’s Catholic Church

Built: 1864 – 1867

Located at the Northeast corner of E. 15th and White Streets

St. Mary’s (circa 1860)

By 1863, the German immigrant population of Dubuque was increasing dramatically. The membership of the Holy Trinity parish had outgrown its stone church that Bishop Loras dedicated in 1850 for the German speaking Catholics. Therefore, the parish formed the German Roman Catholic Building Association in order to construct a new church, supporting buildings, and to raise funds for the project. The parish purchased five lots from the Langworthy Estate, (a prominent Dubuque family) and hired John Mullany as architect to design the church. Interestingly, Bishop Clement Smyth chose an Irish architect to design a church for the expanding German parish. Mullany had already proven his experience in designing St. Raphael’s Cathedral and thus built a close relationship with Bishop Smyth earning him the commission.

St. Mary’s from a view (circa 1860)

St. Mary’s is designed in the Gothic Revival style of architecture, particularly the tower and steeple with its tiers, spirelets, finials and other decorative details. It is 250 feet in height, the tallest steeple in the region. Early descriptions of Mullany’s design for St. Mary’s reference the Salisbury Cathedral in England as his model. However, it is most likely that he drew his inspiration from Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin’s design for St. George Cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Southwark, London, (the St. George tower was never built due to lack of funds). Mullany was strongly influenced by Pugin’s work in Gothic Revival architecture. St. Mary’s is one of the oldest remaining high-style Gothic Revival church buildings in Iowa.  The interior includes lavish decoration and stained glass windows from the F.X. Zettler Company of Munich, Germany, one of the premier art glass companies of the period.

St. Mary’s endured and enriched the lives of its parishioners for 143 years. In 2009, the St. Mary’s parish council voted to recommend to the Archdiocese of Dubuque, that the parish close after years of declining membership, lack of funds, and deteriorating facilities. On May 25, 2010, St. Mary’s celebrated its final Mass, ending a legacy that began in 1867. Although the interior liturgical furnishings have been removed from the Church, it does retain its interior architectural decoration such as windows, murals, stencils and paintings.

St. Mary's Inside 2010

Inside of St. Mary’s (circa 2010)

Through a local community effort in conjunction with the Friends of St. Mary’s, an extensive renovation and restoration of the church and the entire block is currently underway. The restoration will revive the St. Mary’s campus into Steeple Square and kindle a resurgence of the Washington Neighborhood. Please see the Steeple Square website for further information on the restoration project. Click here for a video discussing the history and architecture of St. Mary’s.