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St. Bernard's Church
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Historic postcard of St. Bernard's Church, c.1910
Photo courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection, Cleveland State University Library

St. Bernard’s Church is Akron’s best example of the Romanesque Revival style, and the historical place of worship for the city’s German Catholics. Prior to its construction in 1905, Akron’s skyline was dominated by St. Vincent’s Church, built by the city’s Irish Catholics. Akron’s German Catholic community, dissatisfied with St. Vincent’s, formed St. Bernard’s in 1861. When they decided late in the 19th century to build a new church, they specifically instructed their architect to build a larger and grander building than St. Vincent's. Unable to raise more than $2,750, the St. Peter’s Bau Verein Society made a plea to King Louis of Bavaria and he sent $500 which they used to purchase the site on Broadway and Center streets. It was the reported intent of the church's pastor and builders to erect a church "which would excel any other church building in Akron and in the state,"spending whatever was necessary to build a church on "the most modern plan," which would be a "monument to Catholicism as well as...to the city of Akron."

[photo] Interior of St. Bernard's Church
Photo courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, photo by Jeff Winstel

St. Bernard’s was designed by parishioner William P. Ginther, an Akron architect who designed numerous churches all over the country, including the Holy Rosary Church in Cleveland. Stone costing $51,000 was used to construct St. Bernard's, brought to the site in 125 train carloads. The church embodies the Romanesque Revival style with its symmetrical massing, monochromatic stone, and numerous round and semi-circular arches. The church’s twin bell towers, each with five string courses, are also typical elements of this architectural style. The influences of the Richardsonian Romanesque style are also evident—by the recessed placement of the windows and the random courses of the rock-faced exterior walls. Distinctive interior details include a large white Italian marble altar and elaborate wall decorations featuring the disciples, apostles and seraphim. Large round arch windows contain painted glass imported from Germany, with the names of the church patrons that paid for them identified on each window.

St. Bernard’s Church is located at 240 Broadway St. in Akron. Tours are available by appointment only; call the church at 330-253-5161 .

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