While driving through Kansas, where the horizons dive into the sky forever in every direction, two spires rise from the fields south of I-70 between Hays and Russell.
The Basilica of St. Fidelis is located in the small town of Victoria, a little over a mile south of I-70. Constructed by Volga German pioneers who migrated from Russia in the late 1800s, the church was erected between 1908 and 1911. In 1912, then-presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan coined it the Cathedral of the Plains. Although, the church isn’t an actual cathedral.
At the time of its dedication in 1911, the Basilica of St. Fidelis was considered the largest church west of the Mississippi River, at 220 feet long, 110 feet wide at the transepts, and 75 feet at the nave. Remarkable for its time and location, the church seats more than 1,000 people.
On January 29, 2008, the St. Fidelis Church received the honor of being proclaimed one of the “8 Wonders of Kansas” by the Governor. On March 6, 2014, St. Fidelis Church was declared a minor basilica after years of petitioning, which made it the first basilica in Kansas and the 78th in the United States.
In 1971, St. Fidelis was placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a building of “architectural significance.” Native limestone (quarried locally), Indiana Limestone, and Vermont Marble were all used to build the basilica.
The hand-carved stations of the cross are from Austria, the gallery stained glass windows were created in Chicago by immigrants from Munich, and the alter is made of Italian marble. The interior is beautiful, peaceful, and well maintained. If you visit during a summer evening, you might catch the adult choir working on their tunes.
The basilica is a fascinating stop when driving through Kansas and is just a few minutes from the freeway. It’s a welcome break from the monotony of the road and certainly worth a stop.
Know Before You Go
The basilica is open to visitors during daylight hours.
An audio tour is available on site and guided tours for large groups can be coordinated in advance. The Parish Office can be reached at 785-735-2777.