The interior of St. Alphonsus is probably the most stunning of any church in the city, right up there with some of the lusher Italian splendors. The Irish built St. Alphonsus Church in 1855 because they refused to worship at St. Mary’s with their German-speaking neighbors. The gallery, columns, and sharply curving staircases lead to spooky, atmospheric balconies where the paint and plaster are peeling off in chunks.
The church no longer holds Mass. Ironically, when St. Mary’s was restored, St. Alphonsus closed, and the congregation moved across the street. Hopes for similar restoration here are high, but it’s no small undertaking. Katrina caused half a million dollars in damage, and the downriver bell tower was blown dramatically across the street.
Currently, the church operates an Arts and Cultural Center, which includes a small Irish art and history museum. You can visit the still fabulous-looking museum interior; free tours (donations gratefully accepted and much in need) are conducted on an informal schedule (Tues, Thurs, and Sat 10am–2pm or by advance arrangement; calling ahead to check is recommended).