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original baptismal font

Before St. Philippine Duchesne arrived in Florissant. The Missouri pioneer days had already begun

1764: Florissant is settled around this time

1770: Florissant, MO resides in the Louisiana Territory under Spanish                 Rule, but mostly settled by the French.  Farms and fur traders are the main businesses

1786: Florissant officially establishes a civil government, officially called St. Ferdinand

1789: St. Ferdinand Parish is established and log church near St. Denis St and Graham Rd.

1804: Louisiana Territory moves to US territory

Baptismal Font from original church

1819-1845: Duchesne

In 1818, Duchesne left France for the US with 4 other nuns to help DuBourg educate Native Americans in the US.  Eight weeks later after an intense voyage, Duchesne and her team landed in New Orleans then headed to St. Louis.  DuBourg found a spot for the team to settle in St. Charles, MO.  In August 1818, Duchesne and her team opened the first free school west of the Mississippi.  After a hard winter Bishop DuBourg found land closer to St. Louis in Florissant, MO.  

exterior church in spring

1819: The nuns moved into the Florissant convent that doubled as the day school & boarding school for girls

1820: Opened Novitiate for girls to study to become nuns.  The students  occupied the third story of the convent

1821: Cornerstone of existing church laid. Missouri becomes a state

1825: Native American school for girls is opened

1827: Father De Smet ordained at the Shrine

1831: Native American school for girls is closed due to lack of funding and the displacement of Native Americans

1836: Original St. Ferdinand Church burned

1840: Rectory added

1846: Society of Sacred Heart nuns leave St. Ferdinand, much to Duchesne's dismay to keep it open

During Duchesne's time at Florissant, her team opened 5 additional schools in MO and LA.  The hope was that the boarding school and the community would fund the free schools since no government funding was available.  This meant all schools would see good years and very lean years depending on the community's success with business, crops, and the importance of girls' education at the time, even the good years were very lean.

The Society of the Sacred Heart, United States – Canada Province continues to work humbly to acknowledge their history with enslavement, To read more about the history and their commitment, please click the link below.

1846-1957: 111 years of Loretto

After Philippine Duchesne left the historic church of St. Ferdinand, the Sisters of Loretto arrived and taught at this school for more than 100 years.

1847: Sisters of Loretto arrive at St. Ferdinand and reopen the day school boarding school for girls

1878: Narrow Gauge Railroad opened, connecting St. Louis to Florissant in one hour, which was much more

           convenient for city students

1880: Church remodeled in Italian Romanesque Revival, as it is seen today

1882: New Loretto academy building was finished for a boarding school and to house the faculty nuns

1888: School house building completed for the parish day school

1919: Loretto academy building was destroyed by fire, 50 students and 75 faculty and infirmed nuns got out safely.  After this fire, the Florissant Valley Fire Protection District was established.  

1957: St. Ferdinand school and parish were relocated to Charbonier to accommodate the growing population

old postcard of loretto academy
overhead shot of the shrine at sunset

With the growing population, the parish moved to a larger complex in 1957.  The Archdiocese of  St. Louis begin talks of tearing down the old church complex.

In 1958 a group was formed to save the complex.  The Friends of Old St. Ferdinand was presented with a deed of the property from the Archdiocese for the cost of $1.00.  

A fire in 1966 caused extensive damage to the rectory but a restoration was undertaken immediately. Another fire in 1976 destroyed a brick building at the rear of the church, which was the last of those erected by the Sisters of Loretto. In 1979 the complex was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

In 1988, with the canonization of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, it was designated Old St. Ferdinand Shrine by the Archdiocese of St. Louis

Today, the Shrine continues to be a place for the community providing tours & rental space for events, meetings, and retreats

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