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Archaeologists and Students from Bethlehem High School Excavate behind the Howard’s Log House.

St. Thomas Church

Site ID: 15Ne84

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​St. Thomas was established in 1811 on the plantation of Thomas Howard. He gave the property to the Catholic Church upon his death in 1810.  Howard’s log house became the center of the church complex​, serving as a seminary and home to Bishop Benedict Flaget. The Sisters Charity of Nazareth was established in a nearby log house. Most of the property continued to be used as a farm to support those who lived and worked there.

In 1816, the St. Thomas brick chapel became the seat for the Bardstown Diocese, one of just four Catholic dioceses in the United States at that time. 

Archaeologists from the Kentucky Archaeological Survey investigated the St. Thomas Church campus in 2001.  They were assisted by high school students from Bethlehem High School in Bardstown.

Crucifixes recovered from the site.


​Archaeological remains from the church campus consisted of foundations, walkways, a brick drainage system, and trash middens.  Some atifacts - nails and window glass - were related to the surviving buildings.  Others, such fragments of dishes, jugs, jars, bottles, and animal bones, had been thrown away by the people who had lived and worked on the campus.  

Investigations indicated that when the Catholic Church took over Thomas Howard’s plantation, it initially used the existing buildings for living quarters, dormitories, and worship.  ​Howard’s log house served as quarters for the bishop. Shortly thereafter, the Church had a brick chapel built. 

Later, a new rectory and seminary were constructed near the church.  A separate complex of buildings - including schools, housing, and an orphanage - were built on another part of the property for the Sisters Charity of Nazareth. 

Brick foundation and walkway associated with the 1856 brick seminary.

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​Artifacts of Catholicism

Not surprisingly, some of the artifacts from the St. Thomas investigations were religious in nature. They were likely linked to the bishop, priests, nuns, and seminary students who lived and worshiped there.  

Investigators found f​ragments of red, yellow, and clear glass votive prayer candle holders at the church complex.  Candles like these are commonly used in Catholic churches. At St. Thomas, the faithful would have used them in the chapel.  

The larger of the two recovered crucifixes was inscribed with the words “SOUVENIR DE MISSION.” This translates to "​Memory​​ of the Mission."  This crucifix may have belonged to a seminary student.  The other crucifix was probably part of a rosary. 

Fragments from a red glass votive prayer candle holder.

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