The present church
As the need of a larger church became more apparent, plans soon were under way to build a larger house of God. This time, under the guidance of their pastor, Father Jerome Mueller, O.F.M.Cap., the parish decided to build a spacious and artistic structure that would be a worthy house of God not only for a short period of time but for many years to come.
To this end the parish secured the services of one of the foremost architects experienced in the designing of churches in this country, Mr. John T. Comes of Pittsburg, PA. His plans were slightly modified by a western architect John Marshall of Topeka.
On July 3, 1904 the building of a new St. Fidelis Church was officially announced. It was to be constructed of native hard limestone that was in ample supply not too distant from the site. The biggest task confronting the Clark Construction Company was the large amount of stone needed to construct such a massive structure.
It was judged necessary that each communicant 12 years and older be assessed the sum of $45 yearly and to deliver 6 wagon loads of stone to the building site. In large families, such as were characteristic of the settlers, the father and his older sons hauled as many as 70 and 80 wagon loads of stone. To fulfill their assessments it required a great sacrifice of time, labor and money. It was accepted willingly as they wanted this larger house of God.
This rock formation, averaging about eight inches thick after being dressed down for walling, is found in a formation about three feet under ground along the south banks of Big Creek seven miles south of Victoria, near the community of Vincent and are believed to be the finest and richest quarries. Most of the rock for the church came from the Moritz Baier and Lorenz Braun farms located in Section 8, the Andrew and Adam Riedel farms in Section 7, and the Bernard Huser farm in Section 5, all in Township 15, South, Range 16, West.
Soon after it was announced that the new church was to be built work began in the quarries. Using scrapers and teams of horses the workers cleared large slabs of stone. The slabs were divided into various sizes by nature. The workers marked the slabs in various lengths and widths needed for the walls in the church. Holes were drilled in the rock ten to twelve inches apart along the lines marked, to a depth of about six inches. The holes were drilled with a hand brace and bit. The holes varied in diameter according to the size of the feathers and wedges used. A 5/8 to 11/16 inch bit was used. After the holes were drilled feathers up and down the row until sufficient pressure caused the stone to split. Drilling of the holes in a kneeling position and using the chest apply pressure on the brace and bit to drill the holes caused the chest to become rather sore and painful. In a joking manner some said that the skin on their chest became so thick that they did not feel the pressure applied to the brace and bit. No doubt someone in the settlement conceived the idea of making feathers and wedges to split rock. A drawing and descriptions of the feathers and wedges used then and still are today is shown to better understand their use.
The wedges were made of hard iron shaped by a black smith. The feathers were either made of half round steel rods or shaped by hand. They measured about 5/8 inch at the bottom and half the thickness tapered to the top with the end turned out at a 90 degree angle to prevent them from falling in the drilled hole and to remove them after the rock was split. Any number of feathers and wedges could be set depending on the length of the rock. After they were set each wedge was tapped with a hammer up and down the line until enough pressure was created to split the rock.
Many of the families worked in a group to meet their quota of rock. Early in the morning they could be seen going to the quarries with their horses, wagons, tools and lunch pails. They quarried the stone and loaded their wagons ready for delivery. In several months time a large quantity of stone were at the site to be dressed. Dressing of the stone began on January 11, 1905.
The dressing of the stone was done mainly by members of the parish who had learned this art and had become professional in this work. It was all handwork. No mechanical tools were as of yet available. The masons used special handmade stone hammers, each weighing from five to eight pounds. On one end of the hammer were cutting teeth and the other end of the hammer had a rectangular shaped head with sharp cutting edges used to knock off unwanted parts of stone. Tooth chisels, mallets, and a bush hammer were used to square the ends of stones used as door and window jams. A pitching tool about seven inches long with one end flattened out to a three inch width and the edge with a beveled edge was used to pitch face the wall rock, the final operation on the stone ready for walling. The stone used for the water tables and buttresses were split to specifications and dressed with a smooth waterfall finish. All the various arch stones were like wise split to specifications and when dressed to a wedge shape became self-supporting. The arch stones are the full width of the walls. This demanded accurate work. There are 18 or 20 different types of dressed stone in the building. A mason could dress a number lineal feet of wall rock a day, however the special dressed stone consumed much time. The stones weighed from 50 to several hundred pounds each. It was hard work and very strenuous on the masons back. After the stones were dressed, they were stacked in piles according to the width, thickness, length, and shape for easy selection when needed. Local Stone (material) 135,000 cubic feet, approximately 3000 wagon loads, cost $10,000. Masonry work $13,000. Cutting $7,500.
Before the dismantling of the old church began, which stood on the same location where the present church stands, a temporary building was erected in which church services were held until the new church was completed. Storage space for much of the furnishings had to be provided. This building stood east of the present grade school.
In March 1909, the dismantling of the old church began. All the stone in the old church that could be used for the inner walls were salvaged. The debris had to be loaded on wagons and hauled away to clear the space for the new church. The sum of $500 was spent in the dismantling process.
Mr. Anthony Jacobs, a contractor and builder from Hays, Kansas supervised the construction of the church.
Stone Dressers and masons – Following is s list, not completer on account of missing records, of the local men who dressed the stone and did the masonry work. None of these men survive.
Mike K. Brungardt
John J. Brungardt
John L. Billinger
John L. Hammerschmidt
John A. Goetz
Andrew A. Riedel
Alois A. Sander
Andrew A. Sander
Joseph J. Linnenberger
This massive Romanesque structure stands in the form of a cross facing to the west. Its majestic towers stand on the west end of the church. On the facade above the round rose window a statue of St. Fidelis, the patron saint of the church stands in a niche in the wall as if to keep watch. The church is 220 feet long including the steps. 110 feet wide at the transepts, and 75 feet high at the nave. Its ceiling is 44 feet high above the floor level. The seating capacity is 1,100. The north and south side walls stand 27 feet high. The recessed walls on the north and south side stand 28 feet 4 inches in height from the base of the stone arches that support these walls and rest on the interior pillars. On these walls rest the main roof of the church.
The large round rose window of the west side of the church measure 13 feet in diameter and it is set in a two foot 6 inch circular stone arch. The round window on the north and south side in the transept measure 9 feet in diameter and are also set in a circular stone arch. The transepts measure 40 feet in length and 17 feet in width. The spacious sanctuary measures 38 feet in depth from the steps to the rear wall, 31 feet 10 inches wide in the recessed area then extends to the full width of the church where the side altars stand.
The Chapel in the rear of the church is 30 feet square with a five foot hallway on three sides. Large sacristies occupy the space on either side of the sanctuary. Originally wall space was provided for six confessionals. The two rear confessionals were never installed and instead the space was used for shrines. Some years ago one of the north confessionals was removed and in its place a side door entrance was installed.
A total of 3500 cubic yards of earth were moved in the digging of the basement under the Chapel and Sacristies. A shallow basement under the church provides walking space and access to the plumbing, heating, and electric wiring located beneath the floor. Trenches for the footings and concrete foundation walls measured 4 to 5 feet in width and to a depth of 8 feet 8 inches below ground level. The footings for the piers footings also extend 8 feet 8 inches below ground level. The footings for the piers measure from 5 to 7 feet square, depending on the size of Bedford stone bases and pillars that support the stone arches and walls. The large buttresses on the north and south side of the church required additional footings. The purpose of the buttresses is two fold. They reinforce the high stone walls and add beauty to the structure.
The trenches for the footings and foundations for the two large towers extend to a depth of 12 feet 8 inches below ground level. The concrete footings are 8 feet in width and about 4 feet in depth. The base of the footings measures 26 feet square. The underground concrete walls resting on the above footings measure about 5 feet in width. Upon these footings and foundation walls rest the entire weight of the towers.
The footings and foundation walls for the two center piers at the west entrance of the church are 9 feet below ground level and measure 6 feet square. The two side piers at the entrance are a part of the tower walls and are equally well constructed. These piers bear the weight of the wall between the tow towers and the supporting arches.
Horse scrapers were used to dig the basement, however much of the digging was done b hand. Ground that was not needed for back filling had to be removed by wagon from the premise. The cost of excavation work amounted to $1,400.
FOOTINGS AND FOUNDATION WALLS
The running of the concrete footings and the forming for the concrete walls consumed much time and hard labor. All the concrete was mixed by hand in large wooden troughs with a concrete hoe and shovels. Concrete mixers were not available. Water for the mixing of the concrete was pumped by hand from a nearby well. Later a motor was used to pump the water. The concrete was transferred from the troughs to the foundation by wheelbarrows or shoveled into the forms. The footings on the north, east and south sides average four feet or more in width and one and one half feet in depth. The concrete foundation walls are no less than two feet six inches in width. They extend to ground level where the stone walls begin. On corners and other points of stress the foundation walls are wider and so are the footings.
The concrete piers under the floor that support the floor, pillars and arches vary in width from three to four feet with footings from five and one half feet to seven and one half feet square in size. The piers footings extend eight feet below ground level and to a height of one foot below floor level. The piers supporting the center of the church’s floor are two foot square and of concrete with a 3 foot square base footing. The sanctuary, sacristies and chapel floors are likewise supported by large piers. There are a total of 29 supporting piers.
Wooden 12 inch by 12 inch beams resting on the piers running the full length of the church, three in number, support the 2 by 12 inch floor joists spaced 12 inches apart.
The building required a total of 150,000 board feet of lumber, the cost amounted to $5,000. Carpentry (Labor) $4,000. Joinery (Millwork) $3,000.
Sand for the church was hauled by wagon from the Peter Sander farm located north east of town. It required 4000 or more cubic yards to build the church. One and one third cubic yard of sand was considered a good wagon load, or a total of 3000 or more wagon loads. The wagons were loaded and unloaded by hand.
Reinforcing rods were not in use then, instead crushed rock was added to the concrete to give it added strength. A total of 850 cubic yards of crushed rock were incorporated in the mixture. The rock were also used in the mortar between the outer and inner walls. Doing this, it gave added strength to the walls and also serves as a water proofing for the inner wall. The cost of the crushed rock was $3,000.
A total of 2300 barrels of cement were required. A barrel of cement weighed 376 pounds or a total of 864,800 pounds, costing $3,450. To bear the tremendous weight of the walls the mixture had to be rich in texture. Lime was added to the mortar used in walling the stone. This made the mortar more adhesive to the stone. Cost of the lime was $650.
The outer walls with the exception of the tower walls measure 2 to 3 feet in width. The stone from the dismantled church were used for the inner walls. The corner walls and other places where added support was required the walls are considerably wider. The cost of the concrete used, not figuring the sand used, amounted to $9,350.
The immense weight of the tower walls required a good foundation. The architect and engineer did a masterful job in calculating the required concrete footings and foundation needed to support this weight. The concrete footings are 26 feet square and 4 or more feet in depth, 12 feet 8 inches below ground level. The foundation walls measure 21 feet square and over 4 feet in width. The first 58 feet of the walls in height are 4 feet in width. The next 21 feet in height the walls measure 3 feet in width. The upper 21 foot section the walls are reduced to 2 feet 6 inches in width. The total height of the stone tower walls is 100 feet. The wooden roof on the towers extend upward 41 feet to the tip of the cross. The total height is 141 feet.
The center pillars and the two side pillars which are a part of the tower walls have a stone center faced with Bedford stone slabs. The arches resting on these pillar, the approach to the church and the front steps are faced with a Bedford stone slab. They were precut at the mill. Only the ends were finished to the proper length by local masons.
The roofs on the church were well constructed of wood, well braced with trusses and cross beams. Slate shingles cover the roofs. Mr. Whitcome, chief carpenter built the trusses for the roof at the site. He was not a local resident. The cost of the slate shingles, copper sheeting, galvanized iron, and tin work mounted to $4,500.
GRANITE PILLARS AND BEDFORD STONE BASES
The parishioners were not content with the beautiful outside Romanesque structure but also wanted the interior of the church to be as beautiful as possible. Bedford stone from Indiana was imported for the ornamental stone in the door ways, steps and for veneer work at the entrance of the church. Bases for the pillars were precut at the Indiana quarry. The round and octagon pillars rest on octagon shaped Bedford bases. Local masons cut the 45 degree angle at the top of the base to fit the granite carved base found on top of the base and upon which the granite pillars rest. In the sanctuary square Bedford stone bases support the square pillars, not solid granite but veneered with a granite slab. The bases measure four feet in height, three feet above floor level and one foot below floor level and rest on concrete piers as already described. The bases measure 3 ½ feet in diameter. The granite pillars measure 10 feet 10 inches in length and from 2 to 2 ½ feet in diameter.
Upon the arrival of these large Bedford stone bases and pillars, they attracted wide-spread attention and speculation as to how they would be unloaded from the flat cars and transported to the site of the church. These pioneers and workers had experienced and learned to abide by the old saying “Where there is a will there is a way.” They soon discovered a way to handle and transport these heavy pieces of Mother Nature.
Ordinary wagons used to haul wheat and stone were not strong enough to bear the weight. When the first pillar was lowered on a wagon the immense weight crushed the wagon to the ground. Something stronger was needed. The wheels and under structure of an old abandoned threshing machine were remodeled and the axels reinforced and fitted into a wagon on which the pillars one at a time were loaded and transported to the site. A hoist, block and tackle, ropes and a lot of man power transferred the pillars from the flat cars onto the wagon. Four horses were needed to pull the wagon. The Bedford base stones and the pillars were unloaded near the west entrance of the church and placed on a wooden plank platform awaiting the time to be moved into the church for erection.
There are eight round and six octagon shaped pillars all measuring 10 feet and 10 inches in length. They are solid granite. The two large square pillars in the sanctuary have a concrete center faced with a four inch granite slab, called veneered. The two corners in the sanctuary having the appearance of a pillar are a part of the stone wall with two sides covered with four inch granite slab. All the pillars rest on a special carved granite collar, 13 ½ inches high, which rest between the Bedford stone base and the pillar. Each pillar is capped with a capital upon which rest the stone arches that support the upper stone walls. The capitals were carved locally from a large piece of Bedford stone. Each capital is 2 feet 7 inches in height and has a 3 foot square head. All the capitals were carved by one man with the exception of one that was carved by John J. Linnenberger, a local carpenter and wood carver. The carver’s name is unknown. He was not a local man. It required about one months time to carve one capital.
The cost of the Bedford stone bases, capitals, the front entrance arches, the approach to the church and the slabs on the front steps amounted to $3,600. The carving and cutting work cost $3,250. On a close examination of the capitals it can readily be understood why it required so much time to finish one capital.
BEDFORD STONE BASES AND PILLARS SET IN PLACE
The manner in which the heavy stone bases and pillars were handled and put into the church and placed in their respective positions has for many years been a subject of discussion with no one knowing the details. Remember that at that time no power lifting machinery was available. It was done by the use of black and tackles and hand winches. The following will answer many of these questions.
Several years ago prior to his death the late Mr. Herman J. Linnenberger, a parishioner, carpenter and builder, related to me how it was done. His duty was to construct ramps, scaffold and derricks needed to elevate the stone, mortar and other material where the masons were walling the rock in the walls. Two and four man hand winch lines threaded into a block and tackle which was attached to a beam extending from one derrick to another high above the floor. He designed a rather unique dual block and tackle system used to pull the material up to the desired height by the use of a horse which supplied the power. Two block and tackles were fastened to the top beam. The long cable was threaded into the twin blocks and extended to the ground where the cable ran through a well anchored pulley and then extended some distance along the ground where the cable ran around in an anchored pulley back to another anchored pulley and then upward into the block and tackle and to which a platform was attached upon which the stone and mortar were wheeled in by wheel barrows ready to be lifted up. A platform was also attached to the other block and tackle. The horse was hitched to one cable that ran away from the building. Going outward the horse pulled one cable that lifted the load up and the other platform came to the ground to be loaded. When the platform reached the desired height a whistle was blown for the horse to stop. The horse held the platform in place until the whistle was blown to lower that platform and raise the other. The cable lines were so times that one platform was up, the other down. John M. Windholz, a resident at St. John’s Rest Home, led and trained the horse that was hitched to the cable line. A blow of the whistle gave the signal for the horse to pull and lift a load of stone or mortar. The whistle was blown when the load reached the desired height. The horse held the load in place until unloaded. A blow of the whistle meant for the horse to turn around and to pull up a load on the other block and tackle.
There is one survivor, Mr. Anton Groff, who worked throughout the construction period related how the Base stones and pillars were moved into the church and erected. A wooden track of heavy planks was laid, on which the stones and pillars were rolled by wrapping ropes around them and a number of men pulling on the ropes slowly rolled them to their respective places. They were aided by men using poles as a heel on the back side. All the pillars came from the factory with deep slanting slots and pin holes cut into one end. A self locking device was placed into the slots and pinned. A cable from a four man hand operated winch was attached to this device and the pillars were gradually up ended and lifted up and set in place. The capitals were lifted up in the same manner. Every stone, pillar and capital was set in place without any mishap or damage to the pillars. The granite pillars were quarried and finished at the mill in the state of Vermont, then shipped by raid to Victoria.
For curiosity sake and perhaps a little betting for a good drink of schnapps, a loaded pillar was weighed on a wagon scale and to their surprise the scale registered 8,500 pounds. Too much weight for a farm wagon.
COST OF ERECTION OF ST. FIDELIS CHURCH, VICTORIA, KANSAS
From 1908 to 1911 -- $80,575
Excavation (3500 cu. yds)........................................................... $1,400.00
Local stone (material) 125,000 cu.ft............................................. 10,000.00
Local stone (masonry)................................................................ 13,000.00
Indiana (Bedford Stone material)................................................... 3,600.00
Indiana (Bedford Stone cutting)..................................................... 3,500.00
Granite (Vermont)......................................................................... 4,000.00
Concrete (1500 cu.yds)................................................................. 2,250.00
Crushed Stone (for concrete) 850 cu. yds...................................... 3,000.00
Cement (2300 bbls.)..................................................................... 3,450.00
Sand (2 yards)............................................................................. 2,000.00
Structural Timber (150,000 T.b.m.)................................................. 5,000.00
Carpentry (labor).......................................................................... 4,000.00
Joinery (millwork).......................................................................... 3,000.00
Slate, Copper, Galvanize (iron and tin work)................................... 4,500.00
Plastering (including material 7,000 sq. yd.)................................... 3,600.00
Painting and Finishing.................................................................. 1,000.00
Tile Floors (800 sq. ft)..................................................................... 475.00
Demolition of the old building.......................................................... 500.00
Plans, Architect and Overseer....................................................... 3,000.00
INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH
Entering the church you stand in a spacious vestibule. To the left is a room that was used for many years as the Baptistry. Recently this room was converted into a vestiary where the celebrant for the Mass vests in preparation for the procession to the altar to say Mass. To the right is the staircase leading up to the choir loft. Two bathrooms were installed in this area in recent years.
As the doors are opened to the church proper, your eyes become focused on the beautiful interior. You cannot help but to be overcome with a degree of reverence and respect as you see before you such a magnificent and beautiful house of God. Your mind becomes bewildered and in search for words that could possibly answer your curiosity and astonishment. How could all this have happened so many years ago and who was responsible for it all? You see the two rows of large granite pillars standing on either side of the center isle supporting the stone walls and arches that rest on them. The large arches in the center of the church supporting the roof, with a span of 29 feet, resting on the pillars. The smaller stone arches, having a 16 foot span, support the recessed stone walls and also resting on the pillars. The large wooden arches in the ceiling are built into the roof supports. Heavy cross beams and roof supports contribute to the sturdiness of the roof structure. Every opening in the church has a stone supporting arch. All the altars stand in front of the credence, a shallow recessed arched wall. Everything was constructed in strict conformity to the Romanesque architecture.
The walls and ceiling are covered with a coat of plaster and painted. Plastering (including material) covers 7,000 square yards and the cost amounted to $3,600. The floor in the vestibule was covered with tile resembling mosaic tile. 800 square feet were laid at a cost of $475.
Walking up the center aisle you see the large and inspiring altar, one of the most beautiful constructed altars to be found in any church. So eloquently designed and constructed it is a masterpiece in the field of art and sculpture. The sight alone is an inspiration for prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord and to the pioneers, who by their untold sacrifices of labor, time and money provided for the purchase of these beautiful altars and all the interior furnishings. No doubt that if these sacrifices had not been made at that time we would not be able to enjoy and cherish this beautiful house of God today. They did this for the love of God and their faith so that for generations to follow they may and can also enjoy the fruits of their labors.
The high altar is adorned with a large pedestal on either side, on which stand the statues of St. Peter and st. Paul. Each pedestal bears a throne which extends above the statue capped with a cupola matching the design of the altar. In the center of the altar is a large oil painting which depicts the martyrdom of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, which occurred in 1622. He was murdered by the Calvinists who opposed his teachings of the Catholic faith. This painting was painted in Innsbruck, Austria. It was installed with the altar in the old church in 1892 at a cost of $109. In the arch above the altar is a gold mosaic painting which adds additional beauty and may be well called a halo signifying the sacredness of the altar. On pedestals stand two angels holding a candelabrum as though in perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle.
In compliance with the liturgical movement a portable altar was installed in the sanctuary and the sacrifice of the Mass is said facing the congregation.
The high altar, the two large pedestals and the two outer side altars were manufactured by the Schroeder Brothers in Cincinnati, Ohio. The altar and pedestals were installed in 1892 in the old church and upon completion of the new church were transferred into the new church. The tow outer side altars were installed in 1893 and transferred into the new church. The cost of the high altar amounted to $900 plus $109 freight. The outer side altars cost $425. The large pedestals $100 plus $14 freight.
The two side altars, the Sacred Heart and Blessed Mother were made locally by John Linnenberger and installed in 1916 at a cost of $600. Mr. Linnenberger was an outstanding carpenter and capable of doing wood carving by hand. He made a number of church furnishings and in most instances donated his labor.
A number of the statues in the church are nearly 100 years old. The following statues were donated and installed in 1884 and stood in the previous church: Sacred Heart, Mary Queen of Heaven, Sorrowful Mother, St. Joseph, St. Anthony of Padua.
Donated in 1894: St Francis of Assissi, St. Ludwig, St. Elizabeth, Jesus in the grave or Pieta.
Donated in 1905: The Lord’s resurrection.
Donated in 1913: St. Peter, St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Aloysius, St. rose of Lima, St. Ann, Guardian Angel, St. Joseph and St. Agnes.
Later a statue of the Little Flower was added.
The present communion railing was installed prior to the dedication services 1911. It was donated by the members of the St. Fidelis Verein, (Parish organization for men). The cost is unknown for lack of records. It was built by the Bernard Ferring Company. Considering the workmanship and its beauty, the cost must have been quite high. Originally the railing extended the full width of the sanctuary. Prior to 1948, the railing stood on the sanctuary floor with a flight of steps leading up to it from the church floor. Senior citizens found it difficult to walk up the four steps to the railing and constantly posted the danger of falling and getting hurt. In February of 1948, the railing was shortened and lowered to the lower step. The steps were removed and an alley left between the railing and the sanctuary floor to provide walking space for the Eucharistic ministers to distribute communion. In 1979 the steps in the center aisle leading up to the sanctuary were widened to provide more space for the ministers distributing communion. The sanctuary floor and steps were covered with a new rug to enhance the beauty of the sanctuary.
Originally, the pulpit, as in most churches at that time, was elevated about six feet above the sanctuary floor. Steps led up to the pulpit. A large canopy was placed above the pulpit. Its purpose was to help and improve the listening capacity of the audience. As a joke some said the pulpit was raised so that the priest could see who was sleeping during his sermon.
In 1954, this pulpit was removed and replaced with the present marble pulpit. It was a gift from Monsignor Michael Dreiling, a native son. It was dedicated on the feast of St. Frances, October the fourth. After being dedicated Monsignor Dreiling delivered the first sermon from the pulpit.
Plain frosted glass windows were originally installed with storm glasses. In 1916 the present colored glass windows were installed. For many years it was believed that the colored glass windows were manufactured in America since they were purchased through a Chicago firm. Some years ago an internationally known colored window artist visited the church and positively identified them as having been made in Munich, Germany, by one of the oldest colored glass firms in the world. They are considered the outstanding windows of their type in the United States with only a few Cathedrals in Europe having superior colored glass windows. They were installed by Hans Muencie of German. The cost was $3,700. A great blessing to have such windows here on the plains of Kansas.
At mid-day when the sun shines brightly on the windows, the church is filled with an array of beautiful colors. There are eighteen colored glass windows, the three round rose windows not included, and each window is so designed to portray some biblical event of our Lord and the Blessed Mother. To fully appreciate their beauty and design, the viewer needs to spend some time in church in carefully examining each window.
The large rose window on the west side of the church features the picture of St. Caecilia. The south window St. Aloysius and the north window St. Lawrence, of Brindisi, a martyred young man who died for his faith.
The sanctuary lamp used in the old church was re-plated with gold and hung in the sanctuary until 1928 when a new and very ornamental sanctuary lamp was installed. Originally a special olive oil was used in the lamps and a floating wick burned for many hours on a filling of oil.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS
The stations of the cross hanging in St. Fidelis Church are rated among the finest found in any church. They were made in Tyrol, Austria. They are made of Lynden wood, a very beautiful and endurable wood. The figurines are beautifully carved and painted in natural colors. The painting a carvings were exquisitely done with the background painted in a natural scenic setting giving the station a three dimensional effect. Very beautiful indeed. The large frames also of Lynden wood are finished in the natural wood color. The cost per station was $135.
The prayers of the Stations of the Cross are not only said during the Lenten season , but on many occasions parishioners are seen praying the stations and meditating on Christ’s suffering on the way to mount Calvary where he was crucified and died for the sins of man on earth.
FIRST LIGHTING SYSTEM
As the church neared completion a carbide or acetylene lighting system was installed to furnish light for the church when evening services were to be held. The gas for the lights was formed by placing dry carbide in a specially designed under ground tank and with water added the chemical action created a gas which was piped into the basement of the church. Two rows of plated pipes about seven feet high were placed down the center aisle of the church along the side of the pews and a row of pipes also stood along the outer walls. They were all connected to the supply line. Each pipe was fitted at its top with a valve, a V-shaped burner and a glass shade. The lights were lit individually with a taper after the valve was opened to let the gas escape. The flame created a soft light and lit up the church to a degree so that the people could see fairly well. This was a common system used in churches, homes and business places and kept in use until electricity became available. In 1916 the church was wired for electric lights and the carbide system was removed.
The pews from the old church were installed in the new church. They were refinished and used until 1950 when they were replaced by one hundred and thirty-six new light oak pews. They were manufactured by a church furnishing company in Garnett, Kansas at a cost of $12,000.
The bells that summoned the faithful to church for services since 1884 were installed in the new church towers in 1911. The largest bell weighing 1300 pounds, one 575 pounds and the smaller weighing 275 pounds. These bells harmonized beautifully and when the atmospheric conditions were right they could be heard for miles away. A small bell, christened St. Anthony, donated in 1910 was hung in the small tower above the choir or chapel. It was used to summon the Friars to the choir for prayer. In more recent years another large bell was installed in the tower and to relieve the sacristan from ringing the bells by hand four electric motor bell ringers were installed. The sacristan walked many miles each year to and from the sacristy to ring the bells. The ropes hung in the vestibule of the church.
This equipment was purchased from the Verdin Machine Company, Cincinnati, Ohio at the cost of $1,900. A push of the button rings the bells, they can be rung in unison or rung individually as a toll bell for funerals. It has been noticed that since this system was installed the usual loud sound of the bells has been reduced and its carrying distance reduced.
Every morning at six A.M., at midday and at six P.M. the Angelus is rung reminding the faithful that is time to pray the Angelus. The pioneer families, regardless in what work they were engaged stopped and recited the angelus. This custom still prevails in many homes today. The bells are rung about 3000 times annually.
The cost of the first painting, finishing and fescoing amounted to $2,000. In 1943 the natural finished wood altars were painted white, trimmed with golf leaf paint and the parts of the altars having a round post structure were marbleized, likewise other parts were marbleized to beautify the looks of the altars. The communion railing was also painted white and the middle portion with the round legs were also marbleized to match the altars.
In the early 1950’s the interior was repainted under the supervision of Alex Linnenberger of Hays, Kansas. He was a native son born and raised in Victoria and a son of the late John J. Linnenberger. He was not only a painter but also an artist and painted a number of murals on the walls while the painting was done. He painted a number of churches in this community.
His sons, his brother Bonaventure and sons assisted in the painting. In 1979 the church underwent extensive repairs both on the exterior and interior. Downspouts were repaired and painted, and the parking lot was resurfaced. The interior walls were repaired and painted. The altars received a coat of paint and so did many of the statues. The color applied is a pleasing color for contrast. The cost of this work amounted to over $62,000. The money was made available by donations and fund raising projects. This was all done in about one year’s time.
PIPE ORGAN INSTALLED
In 1890 a pipe organ was installed in the previous church. Several registers were added later to enhance the tone quality. The cost of which was $1,000. This same organ was installed and used in the present church until 1941. Due to the cost of repairing the old pipe organ a new Hammond electronic organ was installed at a cost of $1,725. In 1973 this organ was replaced with a new Allen Computer 600 organ at a cost of $15,000.