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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Maria Angelorum Chapel (Eric Wheeler photo, 2005)

Maria Angelorum Chapel (Eric Wheeler photo, 2005)

Maria Angelorum Chapel, interior (Eric Wheeler photo, 2005)

Maria Angelorum Chapel, interior (Eric Wheeler photo, 2005)

Maria Angelorum Chapel
901 Franciscan Way, La Crosse, La Crosse County
Date of Construction: 1901-1906
Architect: Eugene R. Liebert

The La Crosse Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have historic roots in mid-19th century Bavaria, Germany. A group of twelve Third Order Franciscans immigrated to Milwaukee in 1849 with the intention of forming a religious community dedicated to serving the growing German speaking population in that city. After a series of moves and reconfigurations, in 1871 a group of about 100 Franciscan women settled in La Crosse and established St Rose of Viterbo Convent at the invitation of Bishop Michael Heiss of the newly formed La Crosse Roman Catholic Diocese.

In 1865 the FSPA founders made a two-fold promise for the order in hopes of establishing perpetual adoration (constant round-the-clock prayer) and building "as fine a chapel as means would allow." Perpetual Adoration was begun on August 1, 1878 and almost exactly 28 years later the Maria Angelorum Chapel was consecrated on August 2, 1906.

The 6000 square foot Romanesque Revival Maria Angelorum Chapel was designed by architect Eugene R Liebert of Milwaukee based on early medieval architectural designs that were revived in southern Germany in the early 19th century. Construction was begun in 1901 but not completed on the towering multi-storied landmark until 1906.

The shape of the chapel is a traditional cruciform mass with multiple arms including two pairs of pyramidal twin towers on the east and west end with a massive central tower over the transept. A buttressed apse on the east end contains the Adoration Chapel. The roof is covered by colorful dark red and green glazed tiles. The smooth red brick exterior walls sit on an limestone basement wall. Architectural details include repeated multi-arched window, door and belfry openings, three large stained glass rose windows with stone tracery and extensive ornamental buttresses. The main exterior entrance is quite distinctive with a highly ornamented multi-arched entry.

The bronze doors, highly detailed wall frescoing, gold leaf statuary and massive arched ceilings create an impressive interior. All of the decorative interior finish and statuary was commissioned to regional craftsman steeped in the centuries old artisan tradition of central Europe. More than 100 stained glass windows were imported from the Royal Bavarian Art Institute of Munich, Germany. The Egid Hackner Altar Company of La Crosse provided the main altars and interior furnishings.

The chapel is open to the public for tours by appointment.

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