Steeple to return to Assumption Church on Dec. 15

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The steeple on the Church of the Assumption is shown in the background after a March 2020 tornado damaged the church. Repairs of the church are ongoing and the steeple, which had been removed after the tornado, will be lifted back in place on Wednesday, Dec. 15. Tennessee Register file photo by Rick Musacchio

Since a tornado in March 2020 caused significant damage to the historic Church of the Assumption in the Germantown neighborhood, workers have been slowly repairing the damage and restoring the 162-year-old-building. 

Those efforts will reach an important benchmark on Wednesday, Dec. 15, when the steeple, which had been removed after the tornado, will be lifted back in place. 

It’s a moment Assumption’s pastor, Father S. Bede Price, wants to share with the rest of the diocese. “We’re hoping we can get a good crowd of people here,” he said. 

The day’s events will begin at 11 a.m. and will include talks by government and neighborhood representatives, Father Price explained. Bishop J. Mark Spalding will bless the refurbished steeple and seal a relic of St. Roch, a 14th century saint who is invoked against plagues and is the patron saint of dogs, in the cross on the steeple. 

The relic is a gift to the parish from Cardinal Raymond Burke, who was Archbishop of St. Louis when Father Price served there. 

After the relic is sealed in the cross, the steeple will be lifted back into place by two or three cranes, Father Price said. 

The original steeple had been added to the church in the 1880s. It was damaged and removed “decades and decades ago,” Father Price said.  

Msgr. Bernard Niedergeses, the long-time pastor of Assumption, had a replica of the original steeple built nearly 30 years ago, topping it with the original cross, Father Price explained. “That was the start of Father Bernard bringing the church back to life.” 

Msgr. Niedergeses’ efforts to restore Assumption helped kick start the revival of the Germantown neighborhood, today one of Nashville’s attractive. 

Assumption Church has been unavailable to be used since the 2020 tornado while repair work has been ongoing. The parish has offered daily Mass in Father Bernard Hall next to the church and Sunday Masses in the Buddeke House across the street.  

“They’ve finished the brick work. That’s been a big part of what they’ve been doing in the last year,” Father Price said.  

Additionally, new storm windows have been installed and work on the copper roof is nearly complete. 

Once the roof work is finished, work on the interior of the church can begin, including replacing the plaster on the walls. That will be followed by the installation of the stained-glass windows and then painting of the interior, Father Price said. 

The work is expected to continue until January 2023, he said. “It’s a major, major renovation.” 

The total cost of the repairs will be more than $6 million, Father Price said. The bulk of that will be covered by insurance, but the parish will have to borrow about $1.2 million from the Diocese of Nashville to cover the rest. 

The parish is getting ready to begin a fund-raising effort to pay its share of the repair cost, Father Price said. “A lot of people have been calling offering to help,” he said.  

Those interested in donating can call the church office at 615-256-2729. 

This is a rendering of what the Church of the Assumption will look like after all the repairs are complete, which is expected to be done by January 2023. Photo courtesy of Conrad Schmitt Studios 

The Church of the Assumption is one of the oldest churches in Nashville and holds a special place in the history of the diocese. For many years it served the many German Catholics who settled in North Nashville and their descendants. 

“So many people have been married here. And so many priests have celebrated the sacraments here,” Father Price said. “It’s been going on for 160 years. It’s an important church for the diocese. It’s a unique church for the diocese.” 

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