Frogtown’s largest church is Saint Agnes Catholic Church, 548-50 Lafond Avenue. The current church is the third church built on this site since 1887, when Archbishop John Ireland founded the parish to serve the growing Frogtown neighborhood.
It began as a basement church in 1897, with its massive church building dating from 1909-1912. The classic Baroque style, Indiana limestone edifice was modeled on an Austrian monastery church. Its clock tower, topped with a gold cross, rises 205 feet above street level. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is on a block that includes a school and residences for staff. It also has a colorful red tile roof. The main church seats about 1,500 people.
It is modeled on the abbey church of Kloster Schlägl, a Praemonstratensian monastery in Upper Austria near the town of Aigen in Mühlviertel. George Ries was the architect.
Parish histories note that Frogtown’s high water table meant building a higher-than-usual church basement and tall steps up to the church entrance. Founded as a mission of Assumption Church, Saint Agnes was once considered Minnesota’s largest German Catholic church and school, and was a destination for many German visitors. Services were in German in the early days. Saint Agnes is one of the few churches in the region offering Latin Mass.
The exterior of the church features Saint Agnes and the apostles Paul and Peter, and detailed carvings about the triple-door main entrance.
The bell tower has four bells, each with a name. The first three bells were blessed by Father James Trobec, the first pastor at Saint Agnes. The fourth bell was added later. The bells ring the Angelus and signal the start of Mass, and mark holidays.
The church interior has many unique features including the beautiful Maria Hilf chapel, to the left of the main entrance. It is dedicated to Mary, Help of Christians. The dome inside the sanctuary rises 60 feet above the floor, and there is a prominent mural of Christ crowning the virgin and martyr, Agnes of Rome, as a saint. She is surrounded by the angels and the various saints of Rome, Peter, Cecilia, Lawrence and many others.
Detailed scroll work, onyx pillars, stained glass windows and other ornate details can be seen inside the church.
The church’s brass chandeliers, installed in 1915, hung previously in the old State Capitol on Wabasha and Exchange streets. The marble altar dates from 1930 and was made in Italy. The chapel, which seats about 250 people, was completed in 1948.
The Saint Agnes campus has had many buildings over the years. The current rectory dates from 1939, with the convent built in 1953.
One frightening chapter in church history was in November 1917 when the rectory at 547 Thomas Av. was bombed while its three priests occupants slept. Miraculously no one was injured. A man who held a grudge against German priests was arrested for the crime.