Church of the Holy Family in Cahokia, Illinois

The Church of the Holy Family is the oldest continuously operating Roman Catholic church west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Church of the Holy Family, Cahokia, Illinois (Lori Erickson photo)

Located just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis in Cahokia, Illinois, the Church of the Holy Family is one of the oldest Catholic parishes in the U.S.

It was established by French priest Father St. Cosme, who worked with two French laborers to build a log rectory and chapel here in 1699. The original log church was destroyed in a fire in 1783 and the first mass was celebrated in the current log church in 1799.

The frame church is rich in history. Members of the Lewis & Clark expedition may have worshipped here, and the church was a center for Roman Catholic missionary activity during the frontier era.

Constructed of black walnut timbers in the traditional French Colonial vertical log style, the Log Church is one of only five built in this style that still exist in North America. The roof timbers are oak and the roof itself is made of cypress clapboards covered by sycamore. Wooden pegs were used in the construction instead of nails.

A Latin mass is celebrated here each Sunday.

The rustic interior of the Church of the Holy Family shows its frontier origins. (Lori Erickson)

The Church of the Holy Family is at 116 East First Street in Cahokia, Illinois.

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Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of books that include Every Step Is HomeThe Soul of the Family TreeNear the Exit and Holy RoverHer website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.

 

 

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