Can you tell us about Holy Trinity Church on St. Ferdinand Street in the Bywater?
Kyle Scott and Vaeda Baty
Dear Kyle and Vaeda,
Holy Trinity Parish was founded in 1847 for German Catholics of the 3rd District. Built in 1853, the church was designed by architect T.E. Giraud, who built many of the Roman Catholic Churches in New Orleans in the 1840s and '50s. The Romanesque church had a pair of towers topped with onion-shaped domes. Later in the century, it was damaged in a fire and rebuilt.
For years, immigrant priests with names like Schifferer, Prim and Bichelmeier celebrated Masses in Latin and homilies in German from a canopied pulpit high above the pews.
The Rev. Peter Thevis, a pastor at Holy Trinity who hailed from Cologne, Germany, founded St. Roch Cemetery and built a locally famous Gothic chapel there after the yellow fever epidemic of 1867 passed without taking any lives in his church parish.
Holy Trinity was one of three Catholic churches clustered tightly together. A century ago each served an immigrant population: Holy Trinity (721 St. Ferdinand St.) for Germans; St. Vincent de Paul (now Blessed Francis Seelos Catholic Church, 3053 Dauphine St.) for French Catholics; and Sts. Peter and Paul (in the 2300 block of Burgundy Street) for the Irish. It closed in 2001.
Holy Trinity was locked up in 1997 and later closed due to dwindling congregations and a nationwide shortage of priests. Statues, an ornate side altar, the Gothic main altar, a custom-built organ, millwork, pews and holy water fonts were removed.
More than 400 people attended the final service March 22, 1997. Two years later, Morgan Higby of Los Angeles bought the building for $140,000. The stained glass was removed and replaced by frosted glass, a huge disappointment to preservationists.
In July 2011 the church was sold to Dave Hurlbert and Scott King, who envisioned restoring the historic building as a spiritual and artistic resource for the city. The church has a new name — The Marigny Opera House Neighborhood Church of the Arts — and is an unaffiliated neighborhood church that endeavors to serve the community through arts programs, 12-step recovery programs and writers' groups.