By Indiana Preservationist
Published in Indiana Preservationist - November/December 2008

Vincennes’s St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, built in 1826, ranks as Indiana’s oldest extant church.  Known as the Old Cathedral, the building recently got at $1.3 million tune up that repaired the vaulted ceiling, restored the interior décor, put on a new roof, and made a host of other repairs.

Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin, Wisconsin, restored the ceiling and decoration, removing peeling canvas from the sanctuary walls and noting historic paint colors.  In the process, the Schmitt Team uncovered an earlier, more decorative paint scheme, which they traced and replicated on new canvas.  The firm also restored the church’s 1904 altar and conserved three decorative murals and the Stations of the Cross, darkened by decades of pollution and candle smoke. 

The update called renewed attention to the landmark within the community as visitors came to see the brightened interior.

In a 2009 member tour, Historic Landmarks Foundation will travel to Milwaukee where one of the highlights will be a behind-the-scenes tour of Conrad Schmitt Studios.  The firm, founded in 1889, decorates and restores churches, cathedrals, theatres, and other landmarks.  You’ve seen the firm’s work if you’ve visited the French Lick or West Baden Springs Hotels, Sacred Heart Church in Indianapolis, or Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand.  Watch Historic Landmarks’ website,, and Indiana Preservationist for details on member tours in 2009.

-The inside of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Vincennes sparkles after a complete interior restoration by Conrad Schmitt Studios.  Workers uncovered and replicated the painted decoration on the 1826 church’s walls and ceiling.  Historic Landmarks will see Conrad Schmitt Studios’ artisans at work in their Wisconsin headquarters on a member tour in 2009.

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