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Basilica in Waterbury Voted Top ‘Treasure’ in Connecticut

Posted on January 02, 2024 in: News

Basilica in Waterbury Voted Top ‘Treasure’ in Connecticut

Long referred to as the Mother Church of Waterbury and beyond, the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception has been recognized as a “treasure” by Connecticut residents who are invited each year to vote for their favorite building.

In December, the statewide chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded the Basilica the winner of its 2023 Connecticut Treasures Award. Of the nearly 2,400 votes cast, some 56 percent chose the Basilica for this award. Rector James Sullivan accepted the award on Dec. 7 during the AIA’s annual gala at the Aqua Turf Club, Plantsville.

“I think we are worthy of the award,” Father Sullivan says. “When the Church was built, it was described as the most beautiful Church in New England. Many of us think it still is.”

Eight churches, one from each county, were nominated for this year’s category. Connecticut Treasures, formerly a part of the People’s Choice program, features the wealth and diversity of buildings from each of the Connecticut counties. The public is invited annually to vote for their favorite building. 

“The Basilica has always been the Mother Church of this area of the state but it is also evident that the reputation of our architectural beauty goes well beyond greater Waterbury and New Haven County,” Father Sullivan adds.

The Church traces its roots to 1847, when a Catholic community created a parish under the patronage of St. Peter. Ten years later, St. Peter Church was renamed to honor the recently proclaimed dogma of the Immaculate Conception. 

From 1925 to 1928, a new Immaculate Conception Church was built on the Waterbury Green, where the current building stands today. It was modeled on the design of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, one of four major Catholic basilicas. It was dedicated on May 20, 1928. 

Parishioners and visitors to the Basilica can view its impeccable architectural appointments, its decorous old altar, the Communion railing, patterned marble flooring, the capacious sanctuary, the bronze pulpit and huge windows reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance period.

The bestowal of a “minor basilica,” which sets the church apart in rank from other churches, was conferred upon the parish church dedicated to God in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Pope Benedict XVI on Feb. 9, 2008.

“We are grateful to the architects and builders who were truly inspired to construct this stunning edifice to the Glory of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Father Sullivan says.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was the parish of Blessed Michael J. McGivney, who was born in Waterbury and made his sacraments in the city’s first parish. The diocesan priest, who was beatified on Oct. 31, 2020, needs a second miracle attributed to him for canonization. 

On Christmas Day 2022, a confessional in the Basilica was transformed into a reliquary to venerate and honor saints. Some 80 authenticated relics, including a first-class relic (a piece of bone) of Blessed McGivney, are located in the reliquary. 

A virtual, 3-D tour of the Basilica is available on the Basilica website,, as well as the website for the Archdiocese of Hartford, The Basilica is open daily, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

By Karen A. Avitabile
Catholic Transcript

Photos by Aaron Joseph

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    Norwich, CT 06360-4328
    Phone: 860-887-9294