Church of the Assumption

61 North Cliff Street • Ansonia, CT • New Haven County

Historical Significance

The present Church of the Assumption was the concept of Rev. Joseph Synnott, the third pastor of Assumption Parish, who became pastor in April (on Holy Thursday) of 1886. Fr. Synnott immediately saw that the first Church was too small. In August 1888, he secured from Mrs. Charles H. Hill the property where the present Church stands on North Cliff Street at a cost of $25,000. On April 4, 1889, the same year that Ansonia became independent of Derby and was incorporated as a city, ground was broken by the men of the parish for the new Church of the Assumption. The Church was designed by Irish-born architect Patrick Charles Keely (1816-1896) of Brooklyn, New York.

Photo: View northeast, showing south elevation and facade. (Tod Bryant)

Between 1847 and 1892, Patrick Charles Keely designed sixteen Catholic Cathedrals including the ones in Chicago, Boston, and Hartford; he also designed between 500 and 700 churches. Keely's churches are often called "preaching churches" since they are as broad as they are long. The church was built by J. M. Wheeler of Ansonia, under the supervision of James Houghton, Patrick Keely's son- in-law. The first stone was laid on September 16, 1889; two years later, on Sunday, September 6, 1891, the cornerstone was put into place by Very Rev. James Hughes, V.G., acting for Bishop Lawrence McMahon, who was in Europe at the time. The new church, from the time of the ground-breaking (1889) until the time of its completion (1907), took eighteen years to build.

The present Church of the Assumption was dedicated on Sunday, June 2, 1907 by the Most Rev. Michael Tierney, Bishop of Hartford.


"History." Church of the Assumption.
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Notable Features of Building or Site

This is an end gable building that faces east toward Cliff Street. The facade is divided into three bays by buttresses surmounted by finials which project above the cornice. There is a square tower at the north end of the facade. Double doors surmounted by stone Gothic tracery are set into polychrome Gothic porches centered on each bay and the tower. There is a large arched stained glass window above the doorway in the center bay.

In the interior, the nave extends beyond the transept and is terminated in a five-sided apse, which forms the sanctuary. Immediate attention is drawn to the altar in the center of the sanctuary which juts out into the congregation and the three stained glass windows in the back wall. It is of interest that the pews are slanted around the altar to highlight it as the most important object in the church.

There are the four galleries above the nave as well as the choir loft and organ which are situated in the rear above the main doors. The stained glass windows on both the north and south sides are each 18 feet in height; the church from the floor of the nave to the center of the ceiling is 68 feet; and the seating capacity is about 800.

The Sanctuary

The altar stands in the center of the sanctuary and it is the focal point of the church. The original altar now serves as the backdrop for the presidential chair which was designed by Victor Achilles Fucigna (1859-1935.) It is made of Carrara marble, stands 32 feet high from the base to the top of the central crucifix canopy. In the front of the base is carved in alto relief a representation of Leonardo DaVinci's ‘The Last Supper.” On either side of the carving are panels, one depicts a bunch of grapes and the other a staff of wheat. At the right end of the reredos is a statue of St. Raphael with staff and fish; at the left, is a statue of St. Gabriel with a lily in one hand.

The altar in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the left of the main altar, is the altar of reposition for the Blessed Sacrament. Both this altar and the one in honor of St. Joseph, to the right of the main altar, are also of white Carrara marble. The altar in honor of St. Joseph also contains the baptismal font. Both of these altars along with the baptismal font were designed by the Barsanti Studios of New York City.

The railings of brass and mahogany which now separate the three altars as well as surround the two statues in the back of the church were the original altar rail which separated the sanctuary from the congregation before the renovation of 1978.

The Statues

Altogether there are nine statues in the church. There are four statues surrounding the transept at the height of the galleries. These are the statues of the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

There are two statues in the sanctuary, the one of the Blessed Virgin Mary over the altar of reposition, and the one of St. Joseph.

In the rear of the church, there are three statues. The one on the north side is St. Anthony of Padua, while the one on the south side is the Sacred Heart. A statue of St. Theresa of Avila stands next to the statue of St. Anthony.

All of these statues are the work of the Barsanti Studio of New York City.

The Murals

There are three murals in the church: one over each of the side altars and one over the middle of the transept. The one over the St. Joseph altar depicts the death of St. Joseph. The one over the Blessed Virgin Mary altar is the betrothal of Mary to Joseph. The mural in the ceiling at the center of the transept is a representation of the Ascension of Jesus. All of these murals were done by Kinkel Studios of New York City.

The Stained Glass Window

There are twenty major stained glass windows in the main body of the church. All of these windows were designed and made in Innsbruck, Austria by Tiroler Glasmalerei and installed by James Dougherty of New York City.

Above the sanctuary there are three stained glass windows; the center panel is the Crucifixion, the one to the right is the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the one to the left is the Assumption of the Blessed Mother.

There are three rose windows: one at either end of the transept and one above the choir loft. The one on the south side of the transept is of the gift of the rosary to St. Dominic by the Blessed Virgin Mary; the one on the north is of the Sacred Heart. The rose window over the choir loft is in the form of a Celtic Cross and has pictures of David, Miriam, St. Cecilia, and Pope St. Gregory the Great, all patrons of music.

There are fourteen windows in the main body of the church, seven on each side, each 13 feet high. These windows depict different events in the life of Christ. Beginning at the altar of reposition on the south side and going around the church, the windows are as follows:

  • The Annunciation
  • The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
  • The Birth of Jesus
  • The Presentation of Jesus
  • The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
  • Jesus’ Early Life in Nazareth
  • Jesus at the Wedding at Cana/li>
  • The Sermon on the Mount
  • Little Children Coming to Jesus
  • Jesus Walking on Water
  • Jesus’ Healing of a Paralytic
  • Jesus’ Agony at Gethsemane
  • Jesus’ Resurrection
  • Jesus’ Giving Keys to Peter

Interrelationship of Building and Surroundings

The church is surrounded by a residential neighborhood of late nineteenth and early twentieth century homes.

Additional Information

Date(s):  Built 1907
Style(s):  Gothic Revival
Historic Use:  Church
Present Use:  Church
Architect:  Patrick Charles Keely
Builder:  J. M. Wheeler

Exterior visible from public road.
Interior accessible (during services).

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