Our Town Dyersville: Inside The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier

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DYERSVILLE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- All Summer, KCRG-TV9 will be visiting towns across eastern Iowa to showcase what makes them unique places to live, work and play as part of the KCRG-TV9 Our Town series.

The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, built in 1889, is one of 71 minor basilicas in the United States.

The blue signs within the city guide people to the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, with people who come from all over the globe to take in a destination that is so rare in the United States.

“We have a register book at the entry of the church with some information about the church and it’s remarkable to find that people have traveled here from India, Iraq, all over the United States to take in the beauty of this place,” said Father Dennis Quint.

Described on the xavierbasilica.com website as a “Catholic treasure among the cornfields of Iowa for over 125 years”, this is one of 71 minor basilicas in the nation. Yet this wasn’t the first Catholic church in the Dubuque County town. That came in the lot south of the current basilica, in 1862 but, by 1880 the population of believers had outgrown two versions of the original church.

In June 1888, the first cornerstone went in for the new church and, by December 1889, the new church was dedicated. Its historic status as a minor Basilica came decades later, in 1956, to recognize both the architecture and the faith of the congregation.

“It’s a great place to pray here and so as I pray here, personally, people who wander in and you might think they’d make conversations and talk loudly, but usually there’s a sense of reverence, of quiet awe as they behold the statues, the paintings and the stained glass windows,” said Father Quint.

The view of the Basilica is apparent all throughout Dyersville and even from the highways outside of town. With a height of 212 feet for each spire, including gold-leafed crosses that are 14 feet high, it makes a clear impression.

“Most of my priesthood has been spent serving in parishes with more modern churches so to be close to home near my roots in a place like this, it’s great to not only be in a beautiful facility and church but also to see it full of people who are beautiful and holy to seek a strong family life and a solid education for their kids and a good future,” said Father Quint.

Father Quint noted the education at St. Francis Xavier school is just to the southwest of the Basilica. The grounds of the church and school washed over by faith but also… nourishment.

“How do you bring people together? The Lord got it right the night before he died of bringing people together to eat. Food and dining together brings people together in a remarkable way. We do that every Sunday and even every day. The Catholic faith unites folks inside the walls and outside the walls and, being the only church in town, it’s a great honor and privilege to bring people together around food.”