St. Peter's Catholic Church - Atlas Obscura

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St. Peter's Catholic Church

Wibaux, Montana

Visit a church sculpted from hardened lava. 

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North of Devil’s Tower and west of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, travelers will find this most curious place of worship, which stands as a testament to the geological history of the surrounding region. Built in 1895, this unusual façade of this church is covered in scoria, a type of hardened lava found around the badlands.

The story of how the church came to be begins in the 1890s, when a French immigrant named Pierre Wibaux moved to Montana. He raised one of the largest cattle herds in the world, and became very wealthy. However, when Pierre wrote back to his father Achille in France, the old man was not quite satisfied. Pierre’s new home did not have a Catholic Church. Achille told Pierre that he had to build one, and Pierre obliged, contributing $2,000 to the project. Pierre’s success and contributions to the community lead them to name not only the town, but the county in his honor.

In 1938, 25 years after Pierre’s death, the little church was expanded. The pastor of the time, Father Leahy, had the idea to cover the exterior in scoria. Resourceful members of the congregation went ‘rock picking’ and scoured the surrounding area for chunks of volcanic stone. This true community effort has a place of honor on the National Register of Historic Places.

Know Before You Go

Contact the Wibaux Historical Society for the chance to visit the interior.

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July 11, 2023

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