An artistic and religious history of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

Its spires are a majestic Lewiston focal point that are visible from miles away.

Undeniably, the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is a magnificent architectural achievement, both inside and out. Moreover, the Basilica’s impressive structure is a tribute to the people who built and have supported it in the Androscoggin County communities where the parish has served the Roman Catholics, most of them being Franco-Americans.

The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston Maine

An artistic history about The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. (L’Heureux photo)

In fact, the original parish church was elevated to a Basilica in 2004, and it is a justifiable source of community pride in Lewiston, Maine and in the surrounding Androscoggin area.

In the newly published and brilliantly photographed history of The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the splendid structure is given the well deserved distinction of being “A grand presence in Lewiston”. Many of the excellent color photographs in the publication were taken by Russ Dillingham, including the book’s cover portrait of the Basilica.

Inside the sanctuary of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston.

Stained glass window inside the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston Maine. (L’Heureux photo)

Assembling the artistic book about the Basilica took the dedication of a history enthusiast who had a natural curiosity about the depth of the Basilica’s meaningfulness to Lewiston and Auburn. That person is Julie-Anne Baumer. It was a pleasure to meet her when she  presented an overview about the newly published celebration book, at a forum with The Franco-American Collection on March 28th, 2018,  during Les Semaine de la Francophonie, at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College. She assembled a series of feature newspaper articles about the Basilica and extended the information with her personal detailed research, to create the memorable publication. Additionally, the book’s exquisite photography was aided by having access to drone picture taking technology.

Although many pamphlets and news articles were obviously published during the decades of the parish’s long history, the fact is, this particularly beautiful compilation is a tribute to the entire scope of work and functions of the Basilica. Each beautiful page touches on the fascinating architectural histories within the sanctuary, found both in the upper and the lower church. Details about the sanctuary’s aesthetic designs, and the significance of the many symbols that contributes to the spiritual and liturgical functions, are nicely explained.

Saints Peter and Paul baptisimal font in Lewiston.

Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul baptisim font inside the sanctuary with stained glass window. (L’Heureux photo)

What I like most about this particular publication, beyond the attention given to the beauty in the professional photographs and well written articles, is how the story about the Basilica unfolds within the context of Lewiston’s Franco-American history. In a series of narratives, the articles describe how the Basilica was built as a tribute to the French Canadians and Franco-Americans who gave enormous talent and treasure to make their church a vibrant monument to their devout religious faith.  Moreover, the Basilica also continues to create community enthusiasm. Fortunately, the Basilica is now serving a new generation of Franco-Americans and French immigrants. As a matter of fact, another young and largely French speaking immigrant group has found the Basilica’s parish to be a welcoming community, one that gives grace to their spiritual transition into living in Maine and the US.  As a result, a French Mass continues to be celebrated in the Basilica, in response to the request to support the history of the parish, while, at the same time, welcoming the French speaking immigrants.

Beyond the religious history, the authors of the articles also describe the challenges involved in keeping the Basilica’s operations vibrant, like explaining some of the complexities of the buildings heating and electrical systems, for example.

For information about how to purchase this collectable publication titled “The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul: A celebration of Lewiston’s ‘lunch pail’ glorious church and the determined faithful who made it a reality“, contact this phone number (207) 784-5411 at Sun Media.




Juliana L'Heureux

About Juliana L'Heureux

Juliana L’Heureux is a free lance writer who publishes news, blogs and articles about Franco-Americans and the French culture. She has written about the culture in weekly and bi-weekly articles, for the past 27 years.