Landscape of Catholicism in Boston, 1800-1880

            The research in this exhibit looks at how Catholicism in Boston changed through most of the nineteenth century. In looking at the story of Catholicism it was very important to look at the patterns of migration, mostly from Ireland, since they become a big part of the Catholic identity in Boston, and explore the actions driven by anti-Catholic sentiments because they are a huge part of the formation of Catholicism.

            This exhibit is a part of a project that comprehensively maps congregations in Boston to show the change of Boston’s landscape over time in terms of religion. The data collected in this project was used in the exhibit to show the extent of how small Catholicism was at the beginning of the 19th century and its subtle growth through the next eighty years. However due to the scope of the project, we cannot see the rapid expansion of Catholicism that occurs in the 20th century.

            This exhibit is split into several sections chronologically. It begins with a view of how Catholicism began in Boston in the early 19th century, from 1800-1820. This section looks at the population of Catholics and why Catholics were treated the way they were at the time. The exhibit continues by exploring 1820-1840 giving it the name, the Rise of Anti-Catholicism. In this section, the formation of Anti-Catholic ideology is explored as it became more prominent in this time period. It also looks at the role immigrations of Irish Catholics to Boston played in its creation. In the next section, the exhibit examines how the increased immigration of the Irish due to the great famine led to increased opposition to Catholicism. It also delves into the response that Bishop Fenwick, the head of the archdiocese at the time, gave to the increased opposition as well as how it successfully helped battle it. In this exhibits final section, it views Catholicism’s place in Boston around 1870 changed from 1800. It ends with a very brief look into the future of Catholicism since the growth of Catholicism actually occurs in the 20th century.  


Steven Colon