Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scared Heart stands tall and proud after almost 150 years

Catholicism came to the shores of Tampa Bay in 1528, with the first Spanish explorers. But a permanent settlement took many years as Native-Americans and other hearty pioneers continued to live along the shores of Hillsborough Bay. Although Tampa was the site of a U.S. Army post, Fort Brooke, from the early 19th century, the city wasn’t officially incorporated until 1855 (an earlier attempt at organization failed after it was incorporated as the “Village of Tampa” in 1849. Florida had become the 27th state in 1845.) Tampa's first census count in 1850 listed Tampa /Fort Brooke as having 974 residents, including the military personnel at the army post. Although there weren't many residents in the early 1850s, Hillsborough County commissioners gave property at Ashley Drive and Twiggs Street for a Catholic church. The property later was exchanged for this present site at Florida Avenue and Twiggs Street. In 1859, a frame church was erected on the site of the present Sacred Heart Church. It was named St. Louis Parish in honor of King Louis IX of France. (I posted a monochromatic shot taken in the St. Louis Catholic Cemetery HERE.)

really began to grow with the arrival of Henry Plant’s railroad in 1884, and then the opening of his Tampa Bay Hotel in 1891. Having outgrown the original church building, ground was broken for the present Scared Heart Catholic Church on February 16, 1898, and it was dedicated on January 15, 1905. It was on that date that the parish changed from St. Louis to Sacred Heart. It cost the Jesuits who had it built $300,000. The Romanesque-style architecture is graced with a combination of granite and white marble and the spectacular round window over the entrance. The church, which looks just as it did over a century ago, boasts 70 stained glass windows which were all made for the new building by Franz Mayer Co. of Munich, Germany (which has been in business of since 1848, and making stained glass since about 1860.) The transition from Jesuits to Franciscans took place on July 15, 2005 and now, plans are underway to celebrate their 150th anniversary in February. Scared Heart has a long and proud heritage in Tampa’s downtown and throughout its parish.


Jacob said...

This is what I often think a Catholic church ought to look like...very different than many of the modern structures being erected...but then I like them, too.

Nice historical commentary, Frank. Thanks!

Erin said...

a good evening frank.
this church is beautiful. i so enjoyed the history of early tampa. fascinating stuff. have a wonderful weekend.

Hilda said...

Magnificent! That one rose window alone has me in awe — you say it has 70?? I hope you can take photos from the inside. I would love to see it!

Lois said...

I agree with Hilda--it is a magnificent building! I would love to see the inside.

Vogon Poet said...

Impressive building, I share Jacob's opinion about how a church ought to be.

Joy said...

Hi Frank,
Joy here visiting for the first time. I was born and grew up in the Tampa area. I clicked on your link from the reflections website. I didn't participate, but just went to look around.
Anyway, the Sacred Heart church is one of the most beautiful churches isn't it. I always thought if I were a quilter I'd make a Sacred Heart quilt. I use to work downtown and Davis Island would see it quite often.
I'm enjoying your blog. Tampa has such beautiful architecture.
I'm living in Texas now so it's nice to see familiar sites on here.

♥ Joy

Frank said...

@ Joy - I am so glad you came back for a visit in Tampa. (Texas is big open country but you miss out on our bays and river.) So, so nice to have a native leave such a nice comment. If you want, visit my other site, too, at and search for some of my posts at both sites on history, architecture, etc.

I hope you will visit often, become a Follower and please leave comments. I need to hear!