top of page
Grace Steeple_edited.jpg

"We, the Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Illinois do hereby certify, that on the 28th day April A.D. 1859, this edifice, by the name, style and title of Grace Church Galena, was duly consecrated to the worship of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to forms prescribed for that purpose in the Book of Common Prayer set forth by the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. In the name of God, Amen."

(signed) Philander Chase

Our History

Grace Church is the oldest Episcopal Church in continuous use in the Diocese of Chicago. An Episcopal Service was first held on the banks of the Fevre River (now the Galena River) in 1826, the year Galena was incorporated as a town.

From the small group gathered on the riverbank that Sunday a congregation was informally begun. It met in various homes whenever an Episcopal clergyman came to town. In 1835, it was formally established as a parish and named Grace, after its patron church in Rhode Island. At first the congregation met in the county courthouse and later above a downtown storefront before moving in 1836 to a wooden chapel located on Bench Street. An organ, purchased in 1838 from the Henry Erben Organ Company in New York, was first used in the Bench Street church and is still in use today in the Church's current location. The marble baptismal font was also used in the chapel, which was consecrated by Missionary Bishop Jackson Kemper in 1938.


By 1847 the membership had outgrown that building and plans were drawn to erect the stone edifice now in use. Construction was completed in 1849. The building, constructed of limestone quarried on the site, was consecrated in 1850 by the Rt. Rev. Philander Chase, first bishop of the Diocese of Illinois. Over the next three decades, it was adorned with many precious objects. Some of the stained glass windows are of irreplaceable Belgian glass and a few of them are in Tiffany style. A silver chalice, still in use each Sunday, was fashioned from gold and precious stones given by parishioners. The black walnut eagle lectern was one of many improvements made in the early 1880s.


In 1893, a major renovation included digging out thirty feet more of the limestone bluff behind the church to create the chancel, sanctuary, a chapel and sacristy. The black walnut altar and reredos were added along with choir pews on each side. Extensive stenciling and historic memorial plaques give Grace Church a unique character.

The 1920s and 30s were difficult years for the parish which fell into debt and was "demoted" to mission status. It was not until 2003 that it became a parish once more. By the close of the 1990s years of moisture from the bluffs resulted in the need for an extensive restoration in 2000 and 2001. This restoration also included the addition of new pews, pulpit, and ramp that lead from the accessible entrance.


Now, in 2018, a long desired parish house has been built beside the church. It provides complete accessibility so that all people may share in the ministries and fellowship of the congregation.


For over 150 years, thousands of Galenians have called the stone building that houses Grace Episcopal Church their spiritual home. Since 1835, some 40 priests have shepherded the congregation that have been are caretakers of this legacy.

bottom of page