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The cornerstone of Sts. Peter and Paul church is dated June 29, l844 making it the oldest church building in the city of Detroit.  It was completed and consecrated as Detroit’s Catholic Cathedral on June 29, l848.  The builder of the church was Bishop Peter Paul Lefevere (1841-1869), a French-speaking Belgian.  His body was buried in the building until l939.   The church was designed in post-classical basilica style by Vicar-General Peter Kindekens and Francis Latourneau.  It measures 80 feet by 180 feet.  The exterior of the church, the frescoes above the high altar (painted by Angelo Paldi), and the baptismal font date to 1848.  Bishop Lefevere’s successor, Bishop Caspar Henry Borgess (1871-1887), gave the title to the building to the Jesuit Order (Society of Jesus) in l877 as part of an agreement to start Detroit’s first Catholic College, which became the University of Detroit-Mercy. The law school of the university still is adjacent to the church.  The church is last used as a cathedral on September 14, 1877. 

The first renovation since the 1850s began in 1892.  Two additional doors are added to the front of the building; new confessionals and pews are installed; and heating and lighting of the church are introduced.  The tribune or “Prayer box”, above the side chapel is built to allow Jesuits in the adjoining rectory  (currently the University of Detroit Law School) to enter the church with ease and participate in worship services without obstructed views.  The Fleitz Memorial Altar is consecrated in 1908 and entrusted with a relic of St. Francis Borgia.  The major renovation of 1917 included the additions of the marble vestibule (as previously there was none) and its marble floors, the marble wainscoting around the church, the two spiral staircases leading to the balcony, the marble communion rail, a new marble pulpit (which replaced a wooden one), and new windows.  The renovation of 1998 resulted in a new roof, a new courtyard door and handicapped ramp, a hot water boiler, new sound system, a new wooded altar, ambo table and Sanctuary chairs (all made of 100 year old oak), the painting in the church and the restoration of the baptismal font.

In its 160 plus years of existence, the church has served a wide variety of Detroit’s citizens, and is an active partner in the reconstruction of the downtown area.  The church is now totally owned and operated by the Jesuit Order in the Metro-Detroit area.

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