Home‎ > ‎

Our History

Sts Peter and Paul enjoys a diverse history. By the end of the nineteenth century, our parish avowed to more than 4000 parishioners! By the 1960's the number had dwindled to less than 400. As industry encroached the boundaries of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, parishioners fled west into the suburbs.

Due to the resurgence of urban living in the 1980's, young couples and single adults reappeared on the scene again. Many chose to live this urban lifestyle as they refurbished needy homes of yesteryear contributing to the enhancement of all of St. Louis.  Their decision to join Sts. Peter and Paul Parish and to pursue active involvement in our community has given rise to renewal and many blessings to our parish.  Giving rise and renewal to our parish has also been a result of the bishop's decision to close many of our surrounding parishes. Many of the wonderful and most dedicated of these people elected to join forces with Sts. Peter and Paul community to forge an even stronger spirit in our community.

Today, nearly three-quarters of Sts. Peter and Paul's parishioners live outside the parish boundaries. Each weekend new worshippers travel from all over the St. Louis area to join with the Sts. Peter and Paul community in celebrating the Mass. Sts Peter and Paul claims home to one of the most stunning and captivating spiritual settings in the St. Louis city and county alike.

The true history of the last century and a half of Saints Peter and Paul Parish can never be fully told. The most important part — the faith that the parishioners have felt — is known only by the external fact that they came to church, received the sacraments, comforted each other, and through their savings and effort, paid for the magnificent structure that stands today as a monument to generations past and future.


Early Years

The first church (1849 - 1853). Built of wood, this little church sat on the site of the sanctuary of the current church. The front of the church faced Allen Avenue. It was founded by Father Simon Sigrist to serve the German immigrants of the first ward. Two years after the church was built, the parish census for 1851 indicated 2,000 souls, 210 infants and 3 adults baptized. The congregation was outgrowing the small frame church. On October 1, 1851, a cornerstone was laid for a new brick church.

The second church (1853 - 1873). This church was built of brick and faced Eighth Street.





Our Present Church

On January 1, 1858, Father Franz Goller became the pastor of Saints Peter and Paul and remained pastor until he died 52 years later on August 18, 1910. He built the present church, organized the parish school, led his assistants, and influenced his successors. Indeed, it can be said without exaggeration that Franz Goller both and alive and dead was the most important.."

By the early 1870s, the congregation had outgrown the church building and Father Goller decided to build a new church. While German-American congregations in other cities had build in Greek revival and Italian styles, Goller wanted a church building that would reflect the German gothic of his birthplace and that of his parishioners.

He contacted Franz George Himpler, a German architect who studied at the Royal Academy of Architecture in Berlin and had come to the United States in 1867. His design was accepted by Goller and the parishioners in the spring of 1873. The cornerstone of the new church was laid on June 12, 1874, and in the cornerstone a document was placed that read, in Latin:

" In the year of Grace, 1874 on Low Sunday, in the Pontificate of Pius IX, under the Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick, Rev. Francis Goller being Pastor, and his assistants Rev. Fathers Franz Ruesse, Wm. Klevinghaus and Henry Groll; U.S. Grant being President of the United States; S. Woodson, Governor of Missouri; Joseph Brown, Mayor of St. Louis; under a great concourse of clergy and laity, this corner stone was blessed and laid to the honor of his Majesty God and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul."

The church was ready for use in less than two years. It was dedicated on December 12, 1875. Two months later, the pews were put in place; the following years, an organ and a basement chapel was cleared for the school children. The tower, which was not in Himpler's original plan, was completed in 1890, with five bells, each named after a saint, installed in 1891.

Goller said of the church, "I wanted this church to be as beautiful as possible, that the poor, of whom there are many among us, might also have a beautiful home they could call their own."

The present church of Sts. Peter and Paul was directly in the path of the St. Louis Cyclone storm of 1896, the church suffered severely, but was not holly damaged. 


Beautiful as the church building was, it was becoming a difficult place to worship. Built for a larger congregation, it was simply too big for the smaller numbers that attended fewer Masses. Parishioners attending Mass tended to scatter throughout the pews; there was no focal point, for the high altar was too far away. From the back pews, one could scarcely make out the priest's face.  Then pastor, Father Krebs wanted to renovate the interior of the church, that it would become a place of worship lending itself to the new liturgical reforms, which stressed intimacy and visibili­ty. The problem was to find a way to accom­plish these goals within the confines of a large building.

In searching for a solution, Krebs was inspired by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, whose publications made suggestions for renovating houses of worship. The Bishops suggested that "liturgy flourishes in a climate of hospitality; a situation which people are comfortable with one another; a space in which people are seated together, with mobility, in view of one anoth­er as well as the focal points of the rite, involved as participants and not as spectators:' Krebs himself put it more simply: "The people are the Church, and any building design should start from that point.”  Krebs proposed his intention to renovate along these lines and invited the parishioners to become involved. Architect Mike Hughes, renovation designer Father John Buscemi and archdiocesan consultants helped design the renovation, carpenter Dale Preston did most of the construction, which was completed in 1984 at a cost of $50,000 ($80,000 in 1999 dollars). The major construction involved taking out all of the pews and rearranging them in banked tiers around a new and simple altar table in the front third of the church.


The result is a striking blend of tradi­tion and innovation. The high building with its stained-glass windows is the tradition; the four banks of pews represent the innovation. The banked pews were uniquely designed to fit into the main structure. As it is, the banked seats fit it’s proportion to the horizontal and vertical elements, and every person seated in the pews can maintain eye contact with almost everyone else, and the priest can see all worshipers from the altar base.  In 1990, Archbishop John May appointed Father Bruce Forman pastor of the parish. Forman had been an assistant pastor of the parish since 1987, while also serving as founder and director of the Young Catholic Musicians. In collaboration with the parish coun­cil, Father Forman undertook a vigorous campaign to complete the restoration of the church and the parish buildings.  The former sanctuary area was trans­formed into a chapel for individual prayer and Eucharistic adoration. A translucent glass screen was built by' carpenter Dale Preston to provide privacy within the Eucharistic chapel. The magnificent wooden reredos was restored to its original grandeur by artist David Jones.


Dale Preston built a new wooden lectern to match the stately walnut altar to give dignity to the Liturgy of the Word. The lectern was placed in the midst of the assembly for all to hear the proclamation of the Word.  As the new seating arrangement took up about a third of the original floor space, the remaining open area at the entry of the church was left as a gathering place. To visually unite the gathering space with the worship area, an elegant red carpet was laid through­out the church.




Father Forman wanted the focal point of the gathering area to remind people of their entrance into God's life and the Church. He had the original marble baptismal basin moved to the center of the gathering space. Craftsmen Dale Preston and Lou Michael built an octagonal, marble baptismal pool to match the original marble basin. Water flows from the basin into the pool of circulating water to be used for submersion baptisms.