Church Madness: Stunning 16

On the feast of the Annunciation, I announce to you a great joy: the contestants for the Stunning 16!

Church Madness 2016

IntroductionMidwest Bracket (March 17)East Bracket (March 18)South Bracket (March 19)West Bracket (March 20) · Sacred 64 Results (March 28) · Theological 32 (March 29) · Stunning 16 (April 4) • Ecclesiastical 8 (April 8)

— Voting is now closed. Results and the next round can be found here. —



Matchup I

St. John Cantius (Chicago, Ill.)

Holy Rosary Cathedral (Toledo, Oh.) — click here to view a recent post about this church

Matchup II

Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame (Ind.)

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (Mo.)


Matchup I 

Cathedral of St. Patrick (New York City)

Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Seton Hall University (South Orange, N.J.)

Matchup II

St. Lucy Church (Newark, N.J.) — click here to view images

National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – Upper church (D.C.) — click to enlarge

Art and Liturgy - Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Upper Church Washington DC
NATIONAL SHRINE — By Gryffindor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Matchup I

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Savannah, Ga.)

Sacred Heart Church (Galveston) — click here to view interior photo on flickr

Matchup II

Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery (Hanceville, Ala.) — click to enlarge

Art and liturgy - Our Lady of the Angels Monastery chapel - EWTN Mother Angelica - Hanceville Alabama

Cathedral of St. Stephen (Owensboro, Ky.) — click here to view photo via (Bonus: click here to see a photo gallery from the restoration spearheaded by my company, Granda Liturgical Arts. The most interesting photos are near the end.)


Matchup I

Mission Basilica of San Juan Capistrano (Cal.)

St. Mary in the Mountains (Virginia City, Nev.) — click here to view photos

Matchup II

Holy Ghost Church (Denver, Colo.)

Cathedral of the Madeleine (Salt Lake City, Ut.) — link to cool 360° panorama

— Voting is now closed. Results and the next round can be found here. —


  1. Saint Jean Baptiste in new york city is far better than everything here…..take a look!

    • Hi there! Thanks for the comment! With so many amazing churches I had to make some cuts to narrow down the field to a manageable size. But, it’s already been nominated for next year so be sure to vote next March!

    • Hi Bill! St. Josaphat was actually in the competition but unfortunately, it was defeated in the Theological 32. Maybe next year. Thanks!

    • Hey Xavier, thanks for the comment! I relied on nominations from friends and my own experience while assembling the bracket. I just didn’t know about St. Andrew’s. But you are onto something — it’s legit! I’ve already added it to the West Bracket for next year. Thanks again!

  2. How could you have possibly excluded the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, NJ? Infinitely superior to many of the others that made the list.

    • Hey Armand, thanks for the tip! I appreciate your passion. I didn’t know about this church in time for the competition. It’s on the list for next year!

    • James — I am learning that St. Louis could have had a bracket all to itself! I’ll add it to the list for next year’s tournament. Thanks!

  3. Saved from the wrecking ball, the Shrine of st Joseph in St. Louis is spectacular. Still though, probably can’t beat the St. Louis cathedral basilica!

  4. I’m a little late to this party but you’ve completely missed the most gorgeous Catholic Church in the country, and that is Sweetest Heart of Mary in Detroit! How is that possible?

    • Hi Jayne! Thanks for your comment! I’ve never been to Detroit (except to the airport, which is awesome) so I just didn’t know about it! I am learning about so many new churches just from comments like yours! I appreciate the suggestion and have added it to next year’s Midwest bracket. Thanks again!

      • Sweetest Heart of Mary is clustered with two others, and in community they are known as Mother of Divine Mercy parish. Here is the section of their website devoted to Sweetest Heart. I attended a wedding there a couple of years ago, and it is just magnificent. It holds its own with the Basilica of Sacre Coeur in Paris and St. Patrick’s in NYC, which are also two of my favorites :-). This webpage has a short slide-show, which unfortunately doesn’t do it justice.

    • Hi DG, thanks for checking in. The Cathedral of St. Paul was indeed part of the competition, but it was bested in the last round by Chicago’s St. John Cantius.

  5. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, FL… “the first parish” in the United States, founded September 8, 1565.

    • Hi Fr. Jeff! The cathedral in St. Augustine looks so awesome! Sadly, it was knocked out in the first round by St. Mary’s Basilica in Natchez. What a distinction to be “the first parish!” I hope I’ll have the chance to visit someday. Thanks!

  6. This idea is awesome. Thanks for putting this together. I wanted to recommend the Cathedral of the Plains in Victoria KS. It’s a beautiful church that I think should be considered if you expand next year’s bracket. Thanks for creating awareness of so many beautiful churches!

    • Thanks for the really kind comment! I didn’t know about it even though it’s just a few hours’ drive from me. It’ll be a strong contender in next year’s bracket!

  7. This is such a neat concept! Couple possibilities for next year: St. John’s Catholic Newman Center Chapel, Champaign, IL and St. John the Evangelist in downtown Indianapolis, IN.

    • Alex, thanks for the kind words! Glad you like it! It has been a really fun side project. Both of your suggestions are worthy contenders — I especially love the apse murals at St. John the Evangelist — so I added them to next year’s bracket. In fact, the Midwest bracket for next year’s Church Madness is now full!

  8. Maybe a bracket for recently built churches. I know there wouldn’t be many but St. Teresa of Avila in Grovetown, GA is a very beautiful traditional church. Finished in 2014.

    • Thanks, Ann-Marie! This is great. It is always so hard to narrow down the field, but I definitely do want to strive to include new churches and a variety of styles. St. Teresa of Avila is in the bracket for next year — thanks for the nomination!

  9. This is a great idea! Thanks for putting this together, I’ll try to catch onto it sooner next year. I would suggest you also consider Cathedral of Christ the King, Lexington KY and Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, KY for next year.

  10. Mine didn’t even make it to the big dance. It is a victim of modernism and though we have tried to enhance it over the years, it’s still like outting lipstick on a pig.

  11. I think St. Casimir in South Bend Indiana is the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen.

  12. St. Mary’s Assumption / National Shrine of Blessed Francis X. Seelos, C.Ss.R. in New Orleans. The high altar is sumptuous!!

  13. You need to have c a couple of churches in Milwaukee on there: at least the basilica of st. Josephat, Holy Hill, and Jesu..

    • It’s nice to see that we still have beautiful churches in our country and they weren’t all stripped of their heavenly beauty. Praise be to God!😇

  14. You are missing several beautiful churches

    Chapel of the Benedictine Sisters, Clyde, MO
    St. Joseph’s Abbey Church, Spencer, MA
    St. Jean Baptiste, New York, NY
    St. Vincent Ferrer, New York, NY
    St. John the Baptist, Jersey City, NJ
    St. Aloysius, Jersey City. NJ
    St. Columba, Newark, NJ
    Sacred Heart, Pittsburgh, PA
    St. James Cathedral, Seattle, WA

  15. Here’s a plug for the Church of St. Mary’s Nativity in Plantersville, Texas. A “German painted church” from the turn of the century.

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