Our church building is truly a landmark. In fact, it was added to National Registry of Historic Places in April, 1979. Towering over Downtown Massillon, St. Mary's Parish is one of the most recognizable structures in Stark County. The designer was Leon Beaver, a Dayton architect. He was assisted in design and stonecarving by Massillon resident John Verment. The cornerstone of the building was laid in 1876, and the building was occupied by 1880. The church was officially consecrated in 1926.
Built primarily of sandstone, St. Mary's is a high Gothic Revival structure with a facade of two identical towers and a Latin cross floor plan. The entire building measures 185 feet from north to south, 85 feet from west to east, and 95 feet from pavement to roof. The original color of the sandstone of the church building is tan. Over the years, due to pollution, the sandstone turned dark.
The interior of the building underwent major renovations around 1929 and 1959. The most recent renovations began in late 2015 following a devastating fire. On August 4th, the blaze, originating in the baptistry, could have destroyed the church. Thanks to the quick actions of our pastor, and the Massillon Fire Department, our historic building was saved. The fire gutted the baptistry and National Shrine of St. Dymphna with smoke and heat damage throughout the rest of the building. Following a 16-month renovation, our building is better-than-ever!
A Virtual Tour of St. Mary's Parish
Just upon entering the front doors of the church is the narthex or vestibule with access to the choir loft on the left and baptistry on the right. On the walls of the vestibule is the hand-painted scripture verse of the Magnificat (Luke 1)
Since Christian life begins with Baptism, the baptismal font is located at the entrance to the place of worship. Following the fire in 2015, the baptistry has been renovated with a new baptismal font and statue of St. Dymphna. In keeping with the history and architecture of the church, the baptismal font dates back over 100 years, and served Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Canton for many decades until its closing. On top of the font is a beautiful statue of Jesus being baptized by St. John the Baptist.
The statue of St. Dymphna was part of the chapel (completed in 1939) on the grounds of the Massillon State Hospital. The chapel was closed in 2012 the National Shrine was moved to St. Mary's Parish. For more information on the National Shrine of St. Dymphna, CLICK HERE.
The 17 large windows of the church contain thousands of pieces of faceted glass and were designed in Chartres, France in 1965 by Gabriel Loire. Each piece of glass is smooth on the outside and rough on the inside to deflect and reflect light, so that even on cloudy days the windows are bright to the viewer. Together, the windows of the church tell the life of Christ and are the church's most treasured artwork.
Along the walls of the church are the Stations of the Cross. The passion of Jesus Christ is depicted in brightly colored mosaic glass and 14 wooden crosses. The devotion of the Stations of the Cross are primarily used during the season of Lent.
12 metal Greek crosses mark the consecration of the church in 1926, a visible reminder that the building has been solemnly dedicated to God. Candles are normally placed on the crosses each year in September on the anniversary of the dedication.
Near the foot of the altar, a beautiful marble communion rail greets the visitor. Historically, the rail was the place where the faithful knelt to receive Holy Communion. Today, it remains as a place for private prayer near the altar.
The altar, ambo (pulpit), and lectern, made of oak, along with the presider's chair are the focal points of the sanctuary during the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. Part of the construction of the altar includes gothic pew frontals from the original pews of the church.
On front of the ambo is a small metal statue of Christ the teacher. This statue was on the front of the church's original ambo.
Behind the main altar, and at the apex of the church in the apse, stands the altar of repose. The altar is adorned with beautiful Breccia violetta rose marble. Placed prominently on this altar is the tabernacle, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved for the sick and shutins. Our tabernacle was a gift of a former pastor, Monsignor Edward C. Labbe, in memory of his parents. Surrounding the tabernacle are hand-carved adoring angels and a gothic tower surmounted by a cross. These items formerly graced the sanctuary at Sancta Clara Monastery in Canton.
Following the 2015 fire, the wall of the sanctuary was painted blue. The color was chosen to compliment the stained glass windows. incidentally, blue is also the traditional color of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of our church. In addition, 18 stencils of symbols of Jesus, Mary and the Holy Trinity adorn the back wall of the sanctuary. These stencils add meaning and art to what were once plain walls.
To the left side of the main altar hangs the sanctuary lantern. This ancient lamp burns faithfully day and night, alerting all that Christ is truly present in the tabernacle.
Hung above the main altar is a beautiful carved crucifix of linden wood. Each end of the crucifix features the symbols of the four evangelists.
To the east and west of the altar are shrine altars to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. These altars are a combination of Rosso Levanto and Botticino marble, which support the original Carrara marble. During the renovations in 2016, arches were made and the background was painted blue to match the sanctuary and enhance the white statues. The arch on the back wall behind the Tabernacle was also added to enhance and compliment the other arches of the church.
On the west side of the church is the National Shrine of St. Dymphna. The original statue was destroyed in the 2015 fire. This statue was specially made in Peru. The case below the statue contains a first-class relic of St. Dymphna. The devotional candles that surround this statue (and the statue in the baptistry) are lit for the intentions of those in our parish, and all over the world!
In the loft of the church is a beautiful rose window measuring 24 feet in diameter. The window sheds light on the Schantz-Hemry organ. With 4,128 pipes in 72 ranks, the organ adds splendor, warmth, and beauty the liturgy. The pipe organ was installed in 1921 and renovated in 1989.
The twin towers of the church were completed near the turn of the century. Original plans called for spires atop the towers! The reason for incompletion of these plans is unknown. The towers rise to a height of 125 feet.
The west tower contains four bells which still sound today. One bell was cast in Cincinnati in 1853, and the other three were cast in Baltimore in 1878. The largest bell is the Joseph Bell. The German inscription translates: "I am baptized in honor of St. Joseph and it gives me great joy to honor Jesus Christ with my metal tongue and harmonious songs." The second largest is the Elizabeth Bell, named for Elizabeth Witt. It's German inscription translates: "I was named Elizabeth Bell as a voice from the Holy Land's Savior. Remind the people to do penance so that their souls can partake of the heavenly life hereafter." The third largest is the Guardian Bell. It's German inscription translates: "I am united with my sisters in honor of Jesus, savior of the world, and to honor Mary his virgin mother. No one can show greater love!" The oldest and smallest bell is inscribed simply in English: "Cast by George L. Hanks, Cincinnati, 1853."
Between the towers and presiding over the facade of the church are the Blessed Virgin Mary and Child Jesus. Near the base of the towers the Apostles Peter and Paul stand guard. The cornerstone reads "1876: this church's cornerstone was laid in honor of the Mother of God. Glorious Queen of the world, intercede for us!"