The authoritative source on
  early churches of New Jersey

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We've created a database and photographic inventory on more than half the 18th & 19th century churches in the state and add to it each month. We welcome and solicit all contributions and suggestions from our visitors.

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Saint Mary's Abbey Church
Newark, Essex County

The tower of this 1857 church is reminiscent of the German Romanesque style of the Benedictine Order, which in fact, now operates the church and private prep school associated with it. The parish was organized in 1841.
     There are conflicting accounts of its architect, according to the documents submitted with the application for Historic Register status: one says it was designed by Patrick Keeley, who was the architecture of record for hundreds of Catholic churches, and the other says the plan was modeled after an early Romanesque-style Benedictine abbey in Bavaria, brought over by monks when they took over the church here. In the absence of better data, I side with the latter attribution, as the tower does not appear to be anything like Keeley's other work in the state.
     In June 2005 I received the following e-mail from Reverend Augustine Curley of Saint Mary's, which sheds some additional light on the matter:

When I read your questioning of Patrick Keeley as architect, this caused me to question those who have been around longer thanI, all of whom responded, "I've always been told that . . . " When we had the artwork appraised recently, and the appraiser wanted to document the history of the church, we found that Keeley is mentioned as architect only in later writings. As far as we can tell now, it seems that Boniface Wimmer would have samples of various church designs and tell the local people to use them. One story that I am still following up on is that the pastor at the time, Valentine Felder, who was killed by a trolley car in NYC, was there to consult with Keeley. . . . I had myself questioned the statement I kept hearing that the church was modeled on St. Boniface in Munich, since I did not see much of a resemblance. It turns out that only the tower was modeled on the one at St. Boniface.

National Register     




Copyright (c) 2001 Frank L. Greenagel