St. Irenaeus

St. Irenaeus has been called the “jewel” of the Diocese of Davenport even though at the time of its construction, the Diocese of Davenport had not yet been separated from the Diocese of Dubuque.  It is Gothic Revival Style constructed of local limestone.  The cornerstone was laid in 1864, the church was dedicated in the spring of 1869 and the work on the spires was completed in 1889.  The south and north spires are 166 feet and 136 feet high respectively.  The principal architects of the church were W.W. Waldron, Esq. and W.W. Sanborn. 

No discussion of the church would be complete without acknowledging the pivotal role of the founding priest of the parish, Rev. Frederic Cyrille Jean who was born on July 19, 1827 in Bains Haute Loire, France.  He set sail for Iowa in April 1851 in response to the call of Bishop Loras for men to come to Iowa.  He was ordained a priest by Bishop Loras within a year and funded about half the cost of construction of the church.  He had considerable conflict with Bishop Hennessey, who relieved him of his priestly duties in 1872, and the American Protective Association before he died on April 12, 1890,

An interesting feature of the church is that the main entrance was originally on the east and was reached via and exterior wood stair and porch.  By 1906 the east entrance was considered difficult to reach and since the streetcar line was on the west side of the church, the main entrance was relocated to that side of the church, the first major remodel following its construction.

The church is the third building used by the parish.  The original church was built in 1852, made of brick and was the first Catholic Church in Clinton County.  It was replaced by a frame church in 1856 which was then replaced by the current building.  This building is 130 by 60 feet, only slightly smaller than the cathedral in Dubuque.  There are fourteen stained glass side windows 23 feet high and 4 ½ feet wide, each bearing figures of the most celebrated saints in the Church that were donated by societies or individuals in the parish.  There are three large windows over the west sanctuary depicting the crucifixion while the original east entrance has a round window of the Holy Family.  The windows were painted by Mr. P.F. McMahan of Chicago.  The ground where the church stands was donated by Elijah Buell, the founder and first settler of Lyons.

The second major remodel took place in the late 1940’s when the interior walls were coated with simulated stone to match the exterior.  New Stations of the Cross were installed and the entire lighting system was replaced by five-foot Gothic chandeliers of copper and bronze. 

The church has been closed and desanctified by the diocese of Davenport and subsequently transferred to the Clinton County Historical Society which has set up an independent entity to own and manage it.  Since that time, it has been used for a variety of events such as concerts, exhibitions, etc.  The group has raised enough funds to have the windows on both the east and west facades, repaired, cleaned and protected.  It has been brought into compliance with fire code requirements with ongoing repair work designed to make it usable while preserving the significant features that allowed it to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Latitude: 41.878199 Longitude: -90.177716 Elevation: 631 ft
the best travel advice comes from the people who live here
Mike Kearney

Time Period Represented

1864 to present

Visitor Fees (if any)

Voluntary donation

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