BROWNSVILLE, Texas – With the tragic fire that occurred at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, we visit and appreciate a historic church in the Rio Grande Valley. One that was built by a French Architect.
It started as a small wooden church in 1850 built by one of the first Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. It was the site of the first Texas Oblate Seminary and was a haven for priests fleeing revolutions in Mexico. In 1859 the Immaculate Conception Cathedral was finally complete.
The priest who took over the construction of the church was an architect in France, which explains its Gothic Revival style and made possible by the donations of generous parishioners.
Eugene Fernandez, Commissioner of Cameron County Historical Commission, “He designed this Gothic feature church which is very unique on the border. If you could look at the features that are in this cathedral, they are very sophisticated for the time.”
These chandeliers on the ceiling of the cathedral are from the time of the civil war and are from France. The church was constructed with over 250,000 clay bricks made from the village of Santa Rosalia, 3 miles away from the old town site of Brownsville, which helped it withstand great turbulence.
“The tests that it had of time were the hurricanes, the catastrophic hurricane of 1867, obliterated much that was here, but the church stood, and then there was another test in 1864.” Says Fernandez.
The coming of the Union forces during the Civil War prompted the Confederates to set fire to the ammunition depot, causing an explosion at Fort Brown. Although Fort Brown is nearly half a mile away from the church, windows were damaged, but the church stood standing. Today Valley residents are proud of the mother church as a religious sanctuary, and its historical significance.