Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

Saints Peter and Paul Parish, founded in 1870, is the oldest parish for the French speaking Catholics in the diocese of Portland.  For the French Canadians who began arriving in Lewiston in the mid 19th century, the Catholic church was, next to the family, The focal Point of life.  Under the guidance of the Church, virtually every spiritual, social, recreational, and educational need was taken care of.

These French Canadians who immigrated south looking for work in the Lewiston mills were proud, strong, and hard working people.  Below is the timeline of how Saints Peter and Paul evolved.

The history of Saints Peter and Paul parish isn't just the chronicle of an old church, but of the amazing faith of the French immigrants whose struggles, patience, and great generosity built it.  It reflects an aspect of the immigrant experience played out over and over again across the United States.  In this way, the history of Saints Peter and Paul is an invaluable chapter on the history of this nation.

2007 -  On Tuesday, February 20 – Mardi Gras – the first Mass in the new Lower Chapel was celebrated at 7 p.m.  An “Open House” and celebration on the occasion of the return of the lower church to parish use was held.  It made 100 years from the time the first Mass in the lower church was celebrated.


2005 - Official celebration of the conferral of the title of Basilica on May 22, 2005

Basilica Celebration Events included concerts, festive liturgies and other special events, May 18 – May 22, 2005


2004 - Title of Minor Basilica conferred by Holy See on October 4, 2004


2002 - Dedication of the new altar, June 9th, 2002.  Campaign for renovations of the lower church started.

1991 - Restoration of the upper church started.  Completed in 2002.

1986 - The Dominicans left after 105 years of service.  Administration of the parish returned to the Diocese of Portland. 

1983 - Saints Peter and Paul church placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Federal Department of the Interior on July 14th, 1983.  Second largest church in New England.

1938 - Dedication of the Saints Peter and Paul church on October 23, 1938.

1936 - The Upper church of Saints Peter and Paul was completed on July 18th, 1936.

1933 - Diocese of Portland give permission to finish the Upper church.

1907 - The parish growth was so rapid the Diocese of Portland asked the parish to subdivide the formation of Saint Mary's parish and again in 1923 for the formation of Holy Cross and Holy Family parishes.  Each time, Saints Peter and Paul's building fund was also split.

1906 - The basement of the new church completed in December 1906.

1905 - The first Saint Peter's church was demolished.  The structure was too small to accommodate the nearly 10,000 parishioners.

1902 - Saints Peter and Paul parish subdivided to form Saint Louis parish in Auburn.

1899 - The Dominicans published their Album Historique in which they referred to the parish as S. Pierre S. Paul de Lewiston, Maine.

1881 - Dominican Fathers of Lille, France and the Province of Canada took over the administration of the parish.

1873 - Dedication mass for Saint Peter's church.

1872 - Cornerstone of Saint Peter's church was laid.

1871 - Saint Joseph's Chapel overcrowded.

1870 - French congregation moved from the basement of Saint Joseph's church to Saint John, a storefront chapel.  The first mass of the new French parish at Saint John's was celebrated on July 2nd.

1869 - Basement of Saint Joseph's church unable to accommodate the 1000 Canadians.

1857 - Diocese of Portland sent a French speaking priest to serve the French Catholics in the basement of Saint Joseph's church.

1850 - In the late 1850's French speaking Canadians arrived daily into Lewiston