With Bell towers over 140ft tall, the St. Fidelis Basilica towers over all it surveys. The Church stands as a limestone sanctuary for the German-Russian immigrants who settled this region of western Kansas.
I attended college at Fort hays State University in Hays, Kansas. The city of Victoria where the church is located, is just a few miles east. When the church came in to view as I drove on I-70 west it was always a relief for me. The five hour drive from my home near Kansas City was a long one and there was very little to listen to on the radio, seeing the church meant my journey was almost complete.
Front and side view of the church. When the church was dedicated in 1911, it was the largest church west of the Mississippi River. Since the church is not a seat of a Bishop the building can not technically be called a Cathedral. The name “Cathedral of the Plains” was actually given to the church by William Jennings Bryan a popular statesman at the time who visited the church in 1921. While not a cathedral, the church was declared a Basilica in 2014 and is the only church in Kansas to be so honored.
The Basilica was built in the Romanesque style of architecture and much of the interior is hand carved and designed including a Italian White marble Altarpiece and hand carved stations of the Cross from Austria.
The first Europeans to settle this area of western Kansas were the “Volga-Germans”. These were Germanic people who were invited by the Czar to settle in Russia near the Volga river region in the 1700’s. They were allowed to maintain their language, religion and culture in exchange for working in the wheat fields of Central Russia and modern day Ukraine. In the 1800’s life became difficult for the Volga Germans and they immigrated to the Great Plains area of Kansas. They were devout Catholic and the Church that stands in Victoria today, is the third such church to exist on these grounds.
The Cathedral of the Plains stands tall and is a testament to the perseverance of those who settled here. if you are on I-70 in western Kansas. Come by and visit this marvel. You (literally) can’t miss it.