The Jesuit Urban Center
History of The Church of the Immaculate Conception




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The Church of the Immaculate Conception on Harrison Avenue in Boston's South End. Picture taken from the organ gallery. The Church of the
Immaculate Conception

The Church of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated on March 10, 1861, and served for three years as the first regional Jesuit seminary in the United States. For the next five decades, from 1864 to 1913, Immaculate Conception served as the chapel for Boston College and Boston College High School until the college moved to Chestnut Hill in 1913 and the high school moved to Columbia Point in 1957.


Designed in the style of Italian Renaissance Revival by Patrick Charles Keeley, a 19th century architect of some distinction, the Church of the Immaculate Conception is an imposing structure of white New Hampshire granite. The interior design, particularly noted for its spacious openness and ornate plaster work, is considered to be the work of Arthur Gilman, the architect responsible for crafting the master plan of Boston's Back Bay neighborhood.

The church is proud to be the location of the largest surviving organ built by Elias and George Greenleaf Hook. The walnut case holding the pipe work was designed by Patrick Keeley, the building's architect. The gold colored pipes seen from the body of the church are "speaking pipes", an actual working part of the organ. The organ stops were crafted with a French Romantic voice and this magnificent instrument was inaugurated in concert on February 3, 1864.

Surviving through several decades of urban decline and urban renewal, the Church of the Immaculate Conception has remained, like the cathedrals of medieval Europe, an anchor for the neighborhood and a place of pilgrimage for those who seek solace and guidance. Its continued existence is testimony to the dedication and hard work of its Jesuit priests and brothers and the faith of the surrounding community.


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