St. Mary of the Knobs Catholic Church

St. Mary of the Knobs Catholic Church exemplifies the enduring strength of Roman Catholicism in southern Indiana. In the 1820s, Catholic priests began visiting several families in Lafayette Township, six miles north of New Albany, to celebrate mass. About 1823 residents of the era erected a small log church for their services. In 1833, Father Louis Neyron became the first resident priest. A Frenchman, Neyron had served in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army as a surgeon. Upon turning to the priesthood he emigrated to the United States and ministered to a parish in Mooresville, near Indianapolis. Tradition holds that Catholic families settled in Floyds Knobs because of anti-Catholic sentiments in New Albany.

Soon after becoming the priest at Lafayette Township, Neyron oversaw construction of the first permanent Catholic church in Floyd County. Erected on a site near the log building, it was built of brick and measured 33 x 73 feet. A bell imported from France called parishioners to mass. The sanctuary featured a large crucifix and a statue of St. Joseph.

In 1906, Father Joseph J. Sermersheim began planning for construction of a new chapel. The foundation was poured in 1908, and within a year parish members and local contractors completed the project. The chapel measures 54 x 100 feet and is designed in the English Gothic style. Built at a cost of $35,000, the building was dedicated on May 16, 1909. A reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal descried it as “one of the handsomest country churches in Indiana.”

Construction of the new chapel took place as part of an expansion of the parish’s programs. During the 1890s, St. Mary of the Knobs built a residence for several Benedictine nuns who came to the parish to start a school. A building for the school was completed about 1900.

Apart from minor repairs, the St. Mary of the Knobs chapel remained unchanged for eighty-seven years. In 1995, the congregation initiated renovations. Workers added a new sound system, refurbished the interior, and removed the eight-foot gold cross from the steeple to be regilded, a project that used 600 3.375” square sheets of gold.

In 2007, St. Mary of the Knobs began a third major building campaign after a parishioner donated thirty-three acres of land adjacent to the church’s existing 59-acre campus. The congregation immediately began raising funds for a new church building and an activity center. The design of the new church pays homage to the 1909 chapel and has a seating capacity of 964. Art and icons in the sanctuary include handcrafted works by parishioners. Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein of Indianapolis dedicated the building at a ceremony held March 25, 2012. The congregation named the activity center for a former pastor, Reverend John Geis.

Images

St. Mary of the Knobs

St. Mary of the Knobs

View of the church and adjoining cemetery taken about 1965. The church is located at the intersection of St. Mary's and Martins roads in Floyds Knobs. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collection | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collection | Creator: Ruth Ann Kramer View File Details Page

Marker

Marker

A stone marker commemorates the site where settlers erected a log church in 1823. It stands on St. Mary Road less than a mile from the current chapel. Image courtesy of Carl Creason. | Source: Carl Creason View File Details Page

Crucifix

Crucifix

The crucifix hanging inside the chapel dates to 1837. It has been used by the parish since Father Neyron oversaw construction of the first permanent building. Image courtesy of Hannah O'Daniel. | Source: Hannah O'Daniel | Creator: Hannah O'Daniel View File Details Page

Interior

Interior

Interior of the current church building. On the right is a statue of Joseph and a large crucifix. Both date to 1837. Image courtesy of Hannah O'Daniel. | Source: Hannah O'Daniel | Creator: Hannah O'Daniel View File Details Page

St. Mary of the Knobs

St. Mary of the Knobs

The 1909 church building and the parish cemetery. Image courtesy of Hannah O'Daniel. | Source: Hannah O'Daniel | Creator: Hannah O'Daniel View File Details Page

Early Church Buildings

Early Church Buildings

Newspaper clipping showing the log building erected by the Catholic families of Floyds Knobs in the late 1820s and St. Mary of the Knobs first permanent building, which was completed in 1837. Reverend John H. Hammond is shown at bottom. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collection | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collection View File Details Page

Altar

Altar

The altar of St. Mary of the Knobs as it appeared in 1891. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections. | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections View File Details Page

Main Doors

Main Doors

Entrance to St. Mary of the Knobs, 2008. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections | Creator: Susanna Roberson View File Details Page

School

School

St. Mary's has operated a school since about 1900. This image shows the school building about 1960. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collection View File Details Page

Chapel

Chapel

St. Mary of the Knobs as it appeared in 2008. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections. | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections View File Details Page

Communion Class

Communion Class

A first communion class at St. Mary of the Knobs, early twentieth century. The boys shown are A. Banet, Nicholas Bommersbach, Joseph Christian, Clarence Didat, Evan Fenwick, Amady Freiberger, Robert Geltmaker, Joseph Rauck, Frank Rauck, Albert Schindler, and Edward Schilder. The girls are Catherine Andres, Viola Banet, Clara Batliner, Amelia Becht, Anna Champion, Agnes Fenwick, Irma Jorney, Minnie Knasel, Irma Libs, Mary Misse, Regina Shirley, Vera Smith, Frances Sprigler, and Mary Sprigler. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collection | Source: Floyd County-New Albany Public Library Digital Collection View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Carl Creason, Hannah O'Daniel, Katherine Gann, Daniel Michael, and Leanna Smith, “St. Mary of the Knobs Catholic Church,” Discover Indiana, accessed March 28, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/153.
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