18 December 2008

An Update on the Restoration of St. Francis de Sales Oratory

From the Tradition for Tomorrow blog comes this update on the restoration of the Oratory, with some detail on the finances necessary to save and restore this gem of religion and culture:

The Problem with the Tower

The specific structural problem of St Francis de Sales church tower lies deeply buried in its foundation. A geotechnical engineering survey of the tower’s subterranean condition has revealed that this massive structure is supported by a mere 9-foot thick concrete platform that has deteriorated over the past century. The inadequate support is exacerbated by the fact that the foundation rests on soil, which has shifted over time.

While the deterioration of the tower’s foundation is not detectable above ground, its effects on the tower itself and on the rest of the church building are visible and problematic. Damage caused by the shifted foundation can be seen at the church windows on both sides of the choir loft.

There are visible half-inch wide cracks which run from the roof eave to the tracery of the window. Some extend 40 to 45 feet down the structure. As a result, some of the window’s brickwork has been displaced. The huge stained glass window in the vicinity of the crack is bowed several inches toward the inside of the choir loft. Inevitable seepage of water and debris through these cracks will cause further deterioration of the walls, windows, and the building’s interior.

Superficial repairs of the cracks will not solve the problem. Without addressing the root cause beneath the ground, existing cracks in the church building will continue to propagate and new ones formed.

The Solution

The structural problems of the tower building have solutions. Less than twenty feet beneath the current concrete foundation there is sold bedrock that can support a good new foundation.

Properly retrofitted to the existing concrete footing, the new foundation will bear the load of the tower adequately, stabilize it, and stop further damage to the building.

A detailed plan for remedial construction of the tower’s foundation has been prepared following the engineering study. We know it is feasible to construct a new underpinning system that is solidly attached to the bedrock, thereby reinforcing the current foundation. It is feasible to strengthen the century-old edifice, and to provide a secure, durable support for the massive tower for the future.

Will We?


Restoration of the oratory is not about the preservation of a bygone civilization, but about our own living, breathing culture, our own times, and our own community. When shafts of light penetrate the magnificent stained glass windows, and when glorious music fill the space beneath the spire, they are appreciated, not by anthropologists studying the past, but by ordinary St. Louisians who aspire to higher things for themselves and for their children.

Yes, this century-old building has structural problems due to its age. Yes, there are sound and sensible solutions to these problems. The question is: Will we implement them?

Facts and Figures

Projected phases of the restoration:

Engineering studies and evaluation $130,000 (accomplished and paid for)

Restoration Phase I

Foundation repair $1,500,000

Steeple clean-up, bird elimination, safe access $75,000

Bell - rehabilitate $60,000

Clock - rehabilitate $15,000

Vestibule restoration & painting $50,000

Phase I Total: $ 1,700,000

Restoration Phase II (partial projection)

Tuckpointing entire church, clean terra cotta $250,000

Stair rail repair $20,000


Anonymous said...

Be sure to visit at night...the steeple is in the process of being illuminated from the structure itself. More to be done soon!

Peklet Mom's Kid's Dad.

Anonymous said...


You could build a whole new church for $1.7 million dollars.

I thinks its time for some more competitive bids!

Yes, let's fix the bell tower.

But this idea that the laity have endless funds must stop. The laity are not one big piggy bank.

Our reason for existing is not to work so as to give all our money towards church fundraising campaigns.


Anonymous said...

Going to Mass in a safe environment. . . .PRICELESS!

I had to add SOMETHING that ended in priceless. . .couldn't resist


thetimman said...

Tom, I don't know if you have seen this place, it is massive, and this is as cheap as it gets to fix it. The steeple is 300ft high, and the fix to the foundation must be done.

The whole place is a jewel. There is no question it is worth doing. There are homes in Ladue that are 2 million dollars; this is God's house.

cmziall, as far as safe environments go-- this place is spiritually safe, which is the most important consideration, is it not? I know of some Catholic parishes that are not so safe for the soul as this one...

Anonymous said...

As with The Timman's comments, just for reference, it takes over $1 million to build a mile of new interstate (check the cost of the Rt 40/I-64 re-build). Renovation of ANY public building regularly takes $2 to $3 million. Plus, the complexity of stabilizing AND correcting the "lean" of the steeple, while the structure is in use.....! $1.3 million for the steeple alone sounds low. I wish we had the money NOW; contractors are very hungry these days.

Also, read about middle-age Europe, the villagers DID live to support their church, hence the incredibly beautiful structures (both inside and out)in such humble environs.


Anonymous said...

"The laity are not one big piggy bank."

My goodness, Tom, would you have them asking the clergy and religious??? Who else is left but the laity? Certainly if the clergy and religious had funds they would contribute them gladly to this magnificent House of God. But if I'm not mistaken, is there not a vow of poverty? This layman will gladly give to the Oratory in order to preserve and restore this Holy Place so that it may assist in saving souls!

Peklet Mom

Tina aka Snupnjake said...

You couldn't build a church like St. Francis de Sales for only 1.7 million. The new church that is proposed for St. Gaiea? it's in St. Charles and was featured on Rome of the West was 1.3 million and it was plain. Foundation repair on a house is expensive, let alone a massive tower

What else are the laity going to do with their money? Buy junk, stuff we don't need and fast food? This way at least some Americans will have jobs.


Anonymous said...

The Oratory has by far the best Mass in the Archdiocese. The liturgy there is awesome.

The newer music director is one of the best. And that choir!!! WOW!!

The Institute of Christ the King is a complete blessing to the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The Oratory building is one of the most beautiful churches in the Archdiocese. With the history of the settlement of South St. Louis and the Cathedral of South St. Louis, St. Francis de Sales church.

There is no reason at all that the entire Catholic population of the Archdiocese should not support this project.

I for one am waiting on the Oratory to start asking us the Mass attendees for pledges. I don't know about you TimMan but I am so ready to donate $50,000.00 over five years. What about you?

This is truly one of the best projects in a long time and this deserves our attention.

It almost seems it would be a sin not to support the Oratory,the Institute, and the Latin Mass..

We all know the Holy Father wants it, and that His Grace, Archbishop Burke whole heartly supported the Institute and the Latin Mass.

You want to make good investments?

Support the Institute of Christ the King at St. Francis de Sales.


Anonymous said...


As a very active member of St. Francis de Sales I think I can ask you, on behalf of the Oratory, for you to donate $50,000.

God bless,