Follow the green arrows on the signs as you walk
Massillon was just 13 years old when German and Irish Catholic settlers, many of whom had come to Massillon to dig the canal, founded St. Mary’s parish in 1839. Canton priests conducted services in parishioners’ private homes until completion of the first church building in 1842. The first school originated in the basement seven years later. When the first resident pastor was appointed, he didn’t speak German, so he was assisted by two Canton priests.
When the original church was lost to arson in 1852, the parish built a small replacement, which was razed in 1875 to make way for the present church. The cornerstone was laid in 1876 and most of the work was completed by 1880. Dayton architect Leon Beaver, designed the building, assisted by Massillon resident John Verment.
St. Mary’s Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The National Shrine of St. Dymphna (patron saint of those with mental illness) and its relic moved, in 2012, from the grounds of the former Massillon State Hospital to St. Mary’s.
Three years later, a fire gutted the shrine and the baptistry. Heavy smoke and heat damage throughout the building required a 16-month renovation. Parishioners who returned for the first Mass on Christmas Eve 2016 were awed by the beauty of the refreshed interior.
The high Gothic Revival structure is a “Latin Cross” floor plan, measuring 185 feet from north to south, 85 feet from west to east, and 95 feet from pavement to roof. When it was quarried, the sandstone was tan, but air pollution has darkened it.
The east tower of the church was completed about the turn of the last century, but the second had to wait until funding was available in 1919. Original plans called for spires atop the 125-foot towers, but they wee never added. The west tower contains four bells which still sound today.
The Blessed Virgin Mary and the child, Jesus, preside over the facade. Near the base of the towers, the Apostles Peter and Paul stand guard.
To learn more about this beautiful church, visit stmarymassillon.com.
Directions: Turn right to walk east (away from the traffic light) on Cherry Road four blocks to Sixth Street Northeast. Turn right, heading south, a little more than two blocks until you’re looking at the Salvation Army on your right.