Holy Cross Church "The Cross in the Valley"
Located in Ellis County, Kansas, just south of the Smoky Hill River, the small community of Pfeifer is home of the Holy Cross Church also known as “The Cross in the Valley”. This beautiful Gothic-style church was named as one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Architecture in 2008.
Founded in 1876 by a group of German immigrants from Russia, Pfeifer was one of several Volga-German settlements in Ellis County which has been designated as the “German Capital of Kansas”. The original church in Pfeifer was built in 1891 but by 1911 the congregation felt the need for a larger building and plans began to construct one. Father Peter Burkard who was the parish priest at that time commissioned the Architectural firm of H.W. Brinkman from Emporia, Kansas to design the Gothic-style church.
As sometimes happens during such a massive building project some of the congregation opposed the building of the church in large part due to the fact that the congregation had just built a school house and rectory in recent years. Having just completed two building projects some felt they were not ready at that time to take on the expense of building such a large church. This resulted in some parishioners that lived south of Pfeifer splitting off and eventually began the parish of Saint Mary Help of Christians, which was located 4-1/2 miles south of Pfeifer in Lorretta, Kansas.
Money was raised for the building project when each family in the parish was assessed a two cent levy on every bushel of wheat sold. This led to the church being called the “Two Cent” church by local parishioners who raised some $56,000 to cover the building costs.
Construction on the church began in 1915 on the same site as the original 1891 church. Because the new building was so much larger than the existing church the foundation for it was dug around the old building allowing the new church to be built around the old one. Using native “post-rock” limestone hauled in by parishioners from local quarries, construction began on the large church. It was not until after the walls and roof on the new church were completed that the dismantling of the old existing church began. Stones from the church were used for the inside walls of the new church as well as for the foundation of the main alter. After almost three years of construction Holy Cross Church was dedicated on May 3, 1918.
One can see the three steeples of the church towering above the prairie long before they reach Pfeifer. The building features a main center steeple that is 165 feet tall and is topped with a gold cross and two side steeples that are both 100 foot tall each also topped with a cross. The church itself is laid out in the form of a cross with the sanctuary as the head, the transepts as the arms and the nave serves as the body of the cross.
The interior of the church is every bit as impressive as the exterior. It features a beautiful rib-vaulted ceiling supported by arches resting on decorative columns. With arched doorways and windows Holy Cross is a beautiful example of Gothic-style architecture. The hand crafted wood alter was built by John Schliter and is from the original church. The carved wooden statues that decorate the church were imported from Germany in 1922 and the stained glass windows were added in 1962 and depict scenes from both the Old and New Testaments. Above the main entrance is a mosaic of the Last Judgment, designed by Venetian artist, Bianchie.
Holy Cross is one of the most beautiful churches in the state even though it is no longer home to an active congregation. Closed by the Diocese of Salina in 1993 the church is still open to public and is maintained by Holy Cross Charities, Inc. it is now operated as the Holy Cross Shrine and is available for funerals, weddings and other services. The church is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Holy Cross Charities
P.O. Box 5
Pfeifer, KS 67660