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Friday, 11 October, 2013 8:27 PM
Rain brings smaller crowd to 8th Annual St. Joseph Catholic Church Oktoberfest
Attendees mingling inside the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Detroit.
DETROIT -- It was a rainy day for the 2013 St. Joseph Oktoberfest. With that said, the crowd was just not there in comparison to last year. There was saturday afternoon Mass, and the church crowd headed over to the hall for the German meal at dinnertime. I thought the meal was fabulous. The meal included German sausage, German potato salad, sauerkraut and beets--all for $10. We also had the apple strudel, which was $3. There were no outside dancers like there were last year. We listened to the Cantata sing inside the church though. We also went on a personalized tour of the church, which I thought was most interesting. I found out things that I would have never known by a tour guide who went to school there back in the day. Some of the information was astounding. Afterwards, we walked over the the tent where there was entertainment, but only a handful of people listened.
This church served a German Catholic neighborhood for generations. They started building this church in 1855 and it took 37 years to complete. It was first located on Orleans and Gratiot as a wooden structure, but when they widened the two-lane Gratiot to eight lanes, they moved the church to Jay and Orleans. When they re-did the church they built it with limestone. The roof is slate and copper. The exterior as we see it now was not finished until 1911. The tower was completed only as high as the roof of the church in 1873; the octagonal portion of the tower was built in 1883 and the spire in 1892. The church was modeled after a church in Cologne, Germany.
This massive structure is of Victorian Gothic Revival and is 80-feet high from floor to ceiling. The stained glass windows were made in Austria in 1873 and shipped here and is worth millions. These windows are the oldest known Mayer (of Munich, Germany) glass in America. One of the windows in particular (dubbed the Good Shepherd window) has the picture of the old wooden church on the left and the new limestone structure with the first pastor, Fr. Johann Friedland (1833-1896) in the middle.
St. Joseph's church was built with a lot of carved wood. As a matter of fact, the original seats are made of chestnut and the backs and seats are made of one piece of wood, which makes it very heavy. I tried to lower the kneeler and that was even very heavy to me. The sides of the pews are made of walnut with carved wood ornamentation. The altars, statues, confessionals, and pulpit are all made of wood. Many of the decorations were imported from Germany such as the high altar, almost all the statues and the stations of the cross, which are all original. The flooring was initially wood and there is a sample of the wood in the back of the church, which they tried to stain with bleach many times, but has stained black over the years and it won't lighten up.
There is one original door, which is huge and has an original key and that opens inward from inside the church. The rest of the doors of the church are new and have to open outward from inside the church due to safety code regulations. The pews seating area is covered with regular 12-in. x 12-in. tile. However the main alter and main aisle from the front to the back of the church is one-inch by one-inch marble laid in 1900.
Music has always been of importance at St. Joseph's. The church was dedicated on Nov. 16, 1873, with a mass presented by the Opera House Orchestra. The original organ was built in 1873 by J.H. & C.S. Odell of New York.
The church's bells are world famous. There are a total of six bells with the biggest one weighing 5,200 pounds and its cradle of 2,000 pounds making a total weight of 7,200 pounds. This particular bell is the largest swinging bell in the United States. All of the bells are larger than the Liberty Bell in Pennsylvania. In the book "Santa Claus is coming to Michigan" by Steve Smallman who is from the United Kingdom and has never been to Michigan, made notice to the fact of St. Joseph's bells when Santa arrived in Michigan. That is how world famous these bells are.
The main alter has a square in the middle, which has a bone of a martyr underneath, so when the priest says Mass, he kisses the square on the alter at each Mass. Also on the altar is a gold object, which contains a piece of the bone of each apostle except one and also St. Paul. Also in another gold object is the original wood from Jesus' cross.
St. Joseph's church is a protected structure under the City of Detroit's Historic District Ordinance and is listed on the Michigan Register of historic Sites. While many churches in Detroit are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, St. Joseph is the only one listed as "of national importance."
The weather played a big role in this years attendance. Hopefully next year will be a different story.
The Cantata Academy Chorale performed insid the church.
German dinner with apple strudel; Weiswurst (mild German sausage), German potato salad, sauerkraut and beets
The Liras Band entertained audiences under the tent.
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