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“The best of historic Atlanta”

The Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Reviewed February 27, 2011

Probably one of the most overlooked historic sites in Atlanta. After almost 140 years this church no longer towers over Atlanta, but is a respectable brick building at the corner of Martin Luther King and Central Avenue just a block from Underground Atlanta to the North and the state capital to the East. The interior was restored after a 1982 fire so it looks like it did when the church was new, but the historic touches are still there such as floors that slope in many directions!
The best way to experience the church is to attend a weekday mass at 12:10 which lasts about 30 minutes, and you don’t have to be Catholic to attend, everyone is welcome. If you would rather not attend mass, stop by before or after mass and walk through the shrine. Like most urban churches, it is locked most of the time, but it is worth the effort to see one of the oldest buildings in Atlanta that has been restored to its glory.
Hint – Try to go on a sunny day with the light streaming through the stained glass windows. Once inside, you forget you are in downtown Atlanta and it is one of the most peaceful and beautiful places in the city.

4  Thank jjctraveler
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57 - 61 of 69 reviews

Reviewed December 12, 2007

I attended Mass Sunday morning at The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. The current church building dates from 1873. Underground Atlanta is very close to the church.

In 1861, Father Thomas O’Reilly was appointed pastor of the Atlanta Catholic Church. It was finally renamed from “Atlanta Catholic Church” to its present name in 1873. His pastorate was to be shaped by the War Between the States. He ministered to Union soldiers as well as those of the Confederacy (of which he was an official Confederate Chaplain), he became known personally by many individual Union soldiers. Catholics in the Federal army also attended his Masses during the siege and occupation of Atlanta .

In 1864, after hearing of an order to General Sherman to destroy and burn the city of Atlanta, Father O’Reilly warned General Slocum of Sherman’s army staff that if they persisted in the plan to burn down the Catholic Church, Sherman would face massive desertions of the Catholics in the Federal ranks. (A majority of Sherman’s forces on this campaign were said to be Catholic, and many had personal knowledge or experience of Father O’Reilly.) During Sherman ’s burning of Atlanta , some of these Federal soldiers did help to protect the church by preventing the setting of fires too near the church building .

Father O’Reilly’s intercessions with Sherman ’s staff also apparently saved the Court House, City Hall, and several other churches including St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Trinity Methodist, Second Baptist, and Central Presbyterian. All were saved from destruction.

7  Thank porcupine150
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Reviewed October 6, 2017
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