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A brief history of Saint Peter's

The Mother Church of the Midlands

The need for a Catholic church in the Midlands became apparent with the infusion of Irish workers, a cheap source of labor, brought here to dig the Columbia canals. In 1821, Bishop John England sent an Irish born priest, Fr. James Wallace, to minister to the Catholics here, with the hopes of establishing a church with consecrated ground for a cemetery.

In 1824, the cornerstone for the first church designed by architect Robert Mills was laid. Since this was the only church in the Midlands, St. Peter’s Catholic Church became known as the “Mother Church of the Midlands."

The parish continued to grow, and under the leadership of Fr. Thomas J. Hegarty, the old church was razed and a new larger church was built on the same site in 1906. Frank P. Milburn, designer of the state capitol dome, was chosen as architect of the new church built in Gothic Revival style. In keeping with the European tradition of burial inside churches, Fr. Hegarty’s body was interred in a memorial alcove within.


On September 11, 1987, Pope (now Saint) John Paul II held an audience at Saint Peter's, prior to leading an ecumenical prayer service at the University of South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium. The chair and kneeler he used during the audience may be seen near the entrance to the church, on the south side of the narthex.

Saint Peter’s continues to be a vibrant, diverse parish dedicated to serving the needs of Catholics within the Midlands. In 2018, the Vatican declared Saint Peter's a Minor Basilica, recognizing our historical significance, the quality and frequency of our liturgical activities and our vibrant parish life.

Fifty minute tours of our historic church are available upon request. These tours include information on parish history, symbolism and features within the church related to Catholic doctrine, and information and history of the stained glass windows located throughout the structure. Tours are available for individuals or groups. These tours can be arranged by contacting Karen Williams:

St. Peters Catholic Church - circa 1890s

St. Peter's Catholic Church, circa 1890s

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