Friday, March 8, 2013

Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church

Caledonia at Western Street
Built: 1939-41
Architect: John Link

The Immaculate Conception (I.C.) parish was established in 1906, but the parish school was built first, and the school’s basement served as the church for more than 30 years. Monsignor Joseph Willging, second pastor, spearheaded the fundraising—during the Depression—that led to construction of the church at a cost of $200,000. It was dedicated August 31, 1941.

Stained glass in the I.C. church is unique in Butte. Much of it is in the Norman slab glass style, created by blowing molten glass into a rectangular, bread-loaf shaped mold. The cooled glass is spilt into five pieces, each of which has a much thicker center than edges, making for beautiful color tone variations.

The cross in the eastern window contains a different style of stained glass. Originally, clear glass bricks comprised the cross, but the morning light blinded the priest facing that direction, so the original glass was replaced in a style called dalle-de-verre (French meaning “paving stone of glass”). Angular glass pieces are faceted and set into a stone-like matrix of concrete or epoxy.

In addition to windows with religious themes, the I.C. church stained glass commemorates organizations such as the Catholic Youth Organization and Boy Scouts. Montana history is found as well, with stained glass designs for the Great Seal of the State of Montana and the first mission church in Montana, St. Mary Mission built in 1841 in present-day Stevensville. The first Native American proposed for canonization, Kateri Tekakwitha, is also honored in the Montana Window.

The I.C. church spire is a prominent landmark just below Big Butte, and visible from most parts of the area.

Resource: I.C. Church, by Irene Scheidecker, in Historic Stained Glass in selected houses of worship, Butte, Montana, published by Butte Citizens for Preservation and Revitalization, 2006.

Photos by Richard Gibson.

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