We recently visited with Deacon Antonios to discuss funding and repair needs for the historic Saints Peter and Paul Church complex at 740 West Main St. in the city of Rochester. While we included a few images in the print version of this story in LANDMARKS magazine, we thought we’d share more of the rich architectural splendor here. Enjoy!
by Deacon Antonios, Coptic Monastery of Saint Shenouda
Saints Peter and Paul Church is the largest of three main buildings on the church complex (with an original capacity of 1,100), the other two being the old school building and rectory. The church, built in 1911, was the first of these buildings to be constructed. However, it was the third church to be built for the Sts. Peter and Paul parish, which began as a German community around 1842-43. The first church was constructed in 1842 in the region of the historic Susan B. Anthony District.
In 1907, a movement began to move the church to its current location on West Main Street, then with a growing Italian population. In addition to the cornerstones from the previous churches, several other items were preserved and are still present such as the high altar, the side altars, as well as the three bells in the bell tower, formerly used as a fire alarm for the community.
When viewed from West Main St., the church is a grand, early twentieth-century Italian Renaissance building that follows the form of the classical Italian Renaissance style of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with a design inspired by the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome and a bell tower copied from the tower of Cathedral Lucca in San Martino, Italy. The interior decoration was performed mainly by Prof. Gonippo Raggi, a renowned sacred artist at the time. In addition to some replicas of well-known Italian paintings, some are Raggi originals. For example, on the east side is a large wooden confessional over which is a mural depicting St. Paul before Herod Agrippa painted by Professor Raggi from sketches drawn in Rome while he was studying for his master’s degree.
To preserve this beautiful church and historical landmark, the Coptic Monastery of Saint Shenouda purchased the campus in 2007. A Coptic Orthodox liturgy is celebrated in the morning of the second Sunday of each month and on certain occasions such as the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul on July 12. At this time, we are not able to provide public access to the building, however, we look forward to working with partners such as The Landmark Society to explore options for opening up the space to the wide community. Appointments for access can be made for groups through the contacts given on the monastery website. At present, community services are provided through St. Peter’s Kitchen and REACH Advocacy.
As one would expect, the church has undergone some wear and tear since 1911. We are thankful for funding from the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites grant program, which has allowed us to repair some damage to the roof and gutters. However, there is much work to be done, both inside and out, to preserve the rich artistic and sacred heritage of this building.
There are many individuals and families throughout Rochester and beyond who have some sort of connection with this church, from baptisms and weddings, to school education, or community service. To help us preserve this important landmark, we encourage your financial support and/or your direct participation with whatever services you are able to provide.
Donations and comments can be given through our monastery website: www.stshenoudamonastery.org. May God accept your gifts and offerings and reward you with heavenly and earthly blessings.
Coptic Monastery of Saint Shenouda