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Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka

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Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka

Photograph from the National Register of Historic Places, uploaded to Wikimedia Commons by McGhiever.

In 1895, the Polish immigrant community in Winona raised funds to construct St. Stanislaus Kostka, the grand church dominating the city’s skyline. The church, which still serves the East End parish, was listed on the National Register in 1984 and elevated to a minor basilica of the Catholic Church in 2011.

The earliest European settler-colonists of Winona were almost exclusively “old stock Americans,” primarily of English and Scottish ancestry. After the Civil War, the newcomers to Winona tended to be European-born immigrants who identified as German, Irish, Norwegian, Polish, or Bohemian. They came seeking jobs in the grain-milling, lumber, and railroad industries. The Polish immigrants mostly came from Kashubia, a region on the Baltic Sea that was under Prussian control during the nineteenth century. The Kashubian Poles became the predominant ethnic group in Winona’s East End, a residential neighborhood adjacent to the saw mills along the river front.

The early immigrants worshipped at a German-language Catholic parish, but in 1871 they organized a Polish parish on the East End to be known as St. Stanislaus Kostka. The following year, they built a small church, and in 1873, Bishop John Ireland appointed a Polish-speaking pastor. Poles continued to migrate to Winona, and in 1886, the School Sisters of Notre Dame began teaching in the parish’s school.

In 1889, Bishop Ireland created the Diocese of Winona and appointed Joseph Cotter as its first bishop. Bishop Cotter found that the Polish parish was volatile place—partially because the parishioners felt a powerful sense of ownership of their church, and partially because they were torn between differing ways of expressing Polish identity in a new land. Although they did not speak with one voice, the parishioners felt that they should have the final say in choosing their priests. Following one period of parish turmoil over clerical appointments, Cotter chose Fr. Anthony Klawiter in 1893. Noting the rapid growth of the parish, the new pastor demolished the existing church and hired Winona architect Charles Maybury to design a new one larger than any other in Winona.

After less than a year, Klawiter abruptly left. The parish was again gripped by turmoil, and not only the bishop but also the city officials tried to mediate. After several failed attempts to find a priest acceptable to the parish, Cotter appointed Fr. James Pacholski. He completed the building project and served as pastor until his death in 1931. Most of the cost of $86,000 was contributed by parishioners who were mostly unskilled workers in the lumber mills. The impressive church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1895, with a large parade through the city followed by a celebratory Mass presided over by the bishop.

Maybury’s design is reflective of the “Polish Cathedral” style, which in this case suggests a blending of Romanesque and baroque styles. The red brick church is built on a Greek cross plan with an eight-sided center. The central structure has a red tile roof, and above that is a thirty-foot diameter drum and segmented dome topped by a statue of St. Stanislaus, topping out at 172 feet. Each of the four arms of the Greek cross ends with a gabled roof.

The main entrance is on the north arm through a thirty-nine-foot-wide entrance porch flanked by twin towers, each one fifteen feet square and 114 feet high. The gable of the north arm contains a large rose window. Similar but smaller towers mark the corners of the south arm. The church measures 140 feet from the main entrance on the north to the south wall, and 124 feet from the east to the west arms.

The interior, which before modern renovations could seat 1,800, was dominated by four iron columns in the center of the church, which are coated with plaster designed to represent marble. The ceiling is forty-six feet high and at the center; the dome towers 120 feet above the congregants.

The parish built a three-story school building in 1905. This was demolished in 1966 and replaced by a single-story school which continues to be used today. The church now serves a parish that combines St. Stanislaus Kostka with the nearby church of St. John Nepocene, another church designed by Maybury, which originally served Winona’s Bohemian community.

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© Minnesota Historical Society
  • Bibliography
  • Related Resources

Crozier, William L. Gathering a People: A History of the Diocese of Winona. Winona, MN: Diocese of Winona, 1989.

Curtiss-Wedge, Franklyn. The History of Winona County, Minnesota. 2 vols. Chicago: H. C. Cooper, Jr. and Co., 1913.

Frame, Richard M., III. St. Stanislaus Polish Catholic Church. National Register of Historic Places Nomination File, 1984. Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office, Department of Administration, St. Paul.

Lathrop, Alan. Churches of Minnesota: An Illustrated Guide. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

Polish Cultural Institute. The Kashubian Polish Community of Southeastern Minnesota. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2001.

Radzilowski, John. Poles in Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2005.

Renkiewicz, Frank. “The Poles.” In They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981.

River Town Winona: Its History and Architecture. 2nd ed. Winona, MN: Winona County Historical Society, 2006.

Related Images

Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka
Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka
St. Stanislaus Church
St. Stanislaus Church
St. Stanislaus Church
St. Stanislaus Church
Interior of the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka
Interior of the Basilica of St. Stanislaus Kostka

Turning Point

In 1895, Winona’s Polish immigrant community builds an imposing church for its St. Stanislaus Koskta parish. Although located in the working-class neighborhood of the city’s East End, it is taller and larger than any church in the city.



Polish immigrants begin arriving in Winona in significant numbers—primarily to work in the rapidly developing lumber industry.


Polish Catholics organize St. Stanislaus Kostka parish on Winona’s East End.


The Polish parishioners build a church, and the following year, Bishop John Ireland appoints a Polish-speaking pastor.


The School Sisters of Notre Dame arrive to teach at the St. Stanislaus parish school.


The Diocese of Winona is created, with Joseph Cotter as the first bishop.


Bishop Cotter appoints Fr. Anthony Klawiter as pastor of St. Stanislaus.


Fr. Klawiter demolishes the existing church and hires Charles Maybury to design a new one. For reasons never made public, he leaves the parish before the end of the summer. The cornerstone of the new church is laid in October with a large ceremony.


The new St. Stanislaus church is dedicated on Thanksgiving Day with Rev. James Pacholski as the new pastor.


The parish constructs a large marble altar with a canopy supported by marble columns.


Lightning strikes the dome starting a fire which does considerable damage. The parish school is demolished and replaced with a new building.


St. Stanislaus is added to the National Register of Historic Places.


The parish completes a renovation of the exterior, including covering the dome with metal.


The Vatican designates St. Stanislaus as a Minor Basilica of the Roman Catholic Church.