St. John the Baptist Church720 Hamlet St
Columbus, Ohio 43215
614-294-5319 | https://www.sjbitaliana.com/
St. John the Baptist Church
With its steeple towering nearly 100 feet over the Italian Village, St. John the Baptist Church is a monument of Neo-Gothic architecture.
With its steeple towering nearly 100 feet over the Italian Village, St. John the Baptist Italian Catholic Church is a monument of Neo-Gothic architecture. Completed in 1898, the tan exterior of the church was built using buff brick with accents made of leftover stone from the Columbus Brick and Terra Cotta Company. The church’s original steeple was removed in the mid 20th century, but a new steeple was placed atop the church in 2016.
For over 100 years, St. John the Baptist Church has served the residents of the Italian Village. In the late-19th century, Italian and Irish immigrants traveled to the village in search of job opportunities at the local quarries and railroad companies. The neighborhoods growing number of Italian immigrants convinced Reverend Father Alexander Cestelli of the need for a spiritual center that could serve the needs of Columbus’s Italian community.
According to the official church history, Father Cestelli purchased the four lots of land that would later become the church in 1897. Thanks to Father Cestelli’s hard work and the generosity of the local communities, enough money was collected to fund the church’s construction. The church was consecrated in September of 1898 and began holding mass that same year.
Despite the initial success of the church, the congregation faced challenges in its early years. Collections from the congregation proved insufficient, so much so that Father Cestelli reluctantly resigned his post by 1901. His successor, facing the same financial challenges, traveled door to door to collect offerings from the families of the Italian Village, many of whom were unaccustomed to having to support the church. It was Father Rocco Petrarca, the church’s third pastor from 1913 to 1948, that finally cleared the church of its debts allowing it to look toward the future.
Since the mid-twentieth century, the church has continued to serve the Columbus area. The leadership of the church founded the Italian Festival, which aims to raise awareness of Italian culture. Since the first festival in 1980, the church successfully established an Italian Culture Center, scholarships for students, as well as Italian language courses. The church’s unique architecture and continued livelihood as one of the social centers of the Italian Village, make it an excellent stop for travelers interested in the cities immigrant origins and cultural history.
Notes for Travelers
Travelers interested in seeing St. John the Baptist Church may park off the street near the church. The parking lot located closest to the church is reserved parking. St. John the Baptist continues to be an active church. Visitors will want to make sure that their visits do not interrupt services which are held on Saturdays at 4:00pm and Sundays at 9:30 AM and 11:00 AM.