Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nashville's St. Mary's Catholic Church

From the St. Mary's website
The Haunted America section of this blog is almost full and today's entry of the St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows Catholic Church brings us one step closer!

This church was built between 1844 and 1847 and today, stands as the state's oldest standing Catholic Church.  The original architect was Adolphus Heiman, a German immigrant, and construction was overseen by Bishop Richard Pius Miles.  Miles had been appointed as the first bishop of the new Diocese of Nashville in 1837.  Born in 1791, Miles died on February 21, 1860.  He was buried underneath St. Mary's.

In 1926, the church went through extensive renovations under the firm of Asmus and Clark which must have stirred things up, because shortly thereafter, a ghostly priest began appearing to staff and clergy.

Allegedly, the first sighting of this ghostly priest was in the 1930s by a housekeeper.  In 1937 Monsignor John Morgan experienced this ghost, but not in apparition form.  Instead, the ghost made its presence known by knocking loudly on the Monsignor's door, awakening him from a deep sleep.  After finding no one at the door, he eventually got back to sleep, only to be awakened again by knocking...this time coming directly from his bed's headboard!

There is some speculation as to who this ghost actually is.  Some believe that a priest died during the construction of the church, and that's who is haunting St. Mary's.  Others say that when the church was used as a hospital during the Civil War, 300 men lost their lives within its walls, including a Confederate Catholic chaplain who was shot.  Still others say its none other than Richard Pius Miles himself.

Miles does seem the most likely candidate.  Not only did he oversee the construction of the church and was most likely there during the Civil War, stories may have gotten mixed up.  However, the strongest "evidence" of the ghost identity is the fact that Miles is definitely buried at the church.

Again, there is some speculation involved.  Some sources say that the Bishop's remains were actually re-discovered during the 1926 renovations, which is why sightings began shortly after.  Others say that it wasn't until 1969 that the Bishop's remains were uncovered in the church basement.

Whichever scenario is correct, it does seem that something happened to stir up the presence of a ghostly priest during the Great Depression, and sightings continued all the way up until 1972.  It was that year that Bishop Richard Miles' remains were reinterred in a small chapel in the northwest corner of St. Mary's.

Church website
The Spirits of St. Mary's

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