320 Hanover Street
Boston, MA 02113
Updated December 2020
Reprinted with permission of the Peragallo Organ Company
The new pipe organ at St. Leonard de Port Maurice Church is Opus 757 of the Peragallo Organ Company of Paterson, New Jersey. The 4 generation Peragallo firm recently celebrated its centennial year having been founded in 1918 by John Peragallo, Sr. after immigrating from Genoa, Italy with the family.
This organ is of 2 manual and pedals, incorporating 13 ranks from the church’s original Williams W. Laws Pipe Organ, and 5 new ranks of pipes for a total of 1,112 speaking pipes. The pipework is located in the church gallery in twin caseworks of finished cherry designed with architectural elements of the furnishings of St. Leonard’s Church.
The “Trompetta di Porto Maurizio” is the crowning jewel underpinning the gallery rose window. This set of 49 reeds are installed horizontally projecting their exciting tone directly down the nave of the church. An expressive Chancel Organ division and the key desk are located on the floor of the nave.
St. Leonard of Port Maurice, or more simply St. Leonard’s, is a parish of the Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Boston. It is noted for its historic parish church located at the corner of Hanover and Prince Streets in the North End of Boston, one of the oldest churches built by Italian immigrants in the United States. The church is a pending Boston Landmark.
In 1873, Archbishop Williams asked the Franciscans of the Immaculate Conception Province to minister to Boston’s growing population of Italian immigrants. Fr. Angelo Conterno, OFM, founded the Saint Leonard of Port Maurice parish soon afterwards. Construction of the current building, designed in the Romanesque style by architect William Holmes, did not begin until 1885. The church in the basement opened to the public in 1891, with an estimated 20,000 parishioners. The upper church and the friary on North Bennet Street were completed in 1899. The interior, with its ornate Italian style and color scheme, was created by immigrant craftsmen who were also parishioners.
The influenza epidemic of 1918 left many North End children orphaned. Fr. Antonio Sousa, the pastor of St. Leonard’s Church at the time, founded the Home for Italian Children in Jamaica Plain to care for them. The home separated from the Catholic Church in 1968 and was renamed the Italian Home for Children in 1974. It is now a residential treatment center providing clinical services for emotionally challenged children.
Today, St. Leonard of Port Maurice Parish also includes the nearby Sacred Heart Church, Saint Stephen’s Church, Saint Mary’s Chapel, and Saint John Catholic Elementary School. The Sacred Heart Church, built in 1833, was originally a Seamen’s Bethel where the Methodist minister Rev. Edward Thompson Taylor preached. Herman Melville was a frequent visitor, and Charles Dickens visited there in 1842 to hear Taylor preach. It was purchased by Italian immigrants and became the Sacred Heart Church in 1888.
St. Leonard’s Church is known for its attractive Peace Garden, and for its St. Anthony shrine, which is the oldest of its kind in Boston. Masses are held in English and Italian, with a weekly radio ministry every Tuesday on WUNR (1600 AM). The parish office is located at 14 North Bennet Street. The parish sponsors the annual St. Anthony’s festival in the North End.
To read the article from the December 2020 issue of The Diapason, click here
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