Cultural
10:10 am
Fri January 17, 2014

'Building a Basilica' told by Daybreak Productions

Many Western New Yorkers marvel at the grandeur of Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, built in the 1920s. A local television crew from the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo spent hours researching and conducting interviews to create a documentary that will air across the U.S.  It provides the back story of how the Venerable Father Nelson Baker accomplished the task.

WBFO's Eileen Buckley talked with Daybreak Productions executive producer Claire Rung about "Building a Basilica".

Looking up at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, N.Y.
Looking up at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, N.Y.
Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley

"The question arises. How was the Basilica built in five years? The answer -- simultaneously."

Tony award winning actor Brian Dennehy narrates OLV story.
Tony award winning actor Brian Dennehy narrates OLV story.

Tony award winning actor Brian Dennehy narrates this 60-minute story of the Basilica.

Rung and her Daybreak staff found some interesting behind the scene stories in the building OLV, including new information about the French-born architect who Father Baker hired to the design this amazing structure.

"There were many things that we discovered, very interesting things such as the architect, Emile Uhlrich, he was from Cleveland, Ohio," said Rung.  "He had actually built St. Mary of the Angles Church in Olean prior to coming her to build Our Lady of Victory."

And like the many area orphan children that Father Baker cared for in his orphanage -- producers learned that architect himself was an orphan.

"Isn't that interesting," noted Rung. "That was one of the items that we did come up with."

In conducting research -- Daybreak uncovered a letter -- learning the dome of the Basilica actually collapsed during construction.

Our Lady of Victory Basilica.
Our Lady of Victory Basilica.
Credit Photo from Daybreak Productions

"It was a letter written by Emile Uhlrich to Father Baker," said Rung. "No one knew this had happened."

The massive structure included marble that was shipped from overseas.

"Shipping the huge pieces of finished marble work," said Rung. "It actually held up the opening of the Basilica because some of those pieces could not arrive in time."

Daybreak learned the statue of the Blessed Mother outside the Basilica weighs 16,000 pounds.

"It needed additional support on the inside of the building just to hold her there because she weighs so much," noted Rung.

Father Baker managed to pay for the Basilica without getting the parish into debt through his fundraising campaigns.

The tomb of Father Nelson Baker inside Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, NY.
The tomb of Father Nelson Baker inside Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, NY.
Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley

"It is incredible," said Rung.

The Basilica is a national shrine to Our Lady of Victory. It also serves as the final resting place for a man who remains in consideration for possible saint hood -- Father Nelson Baker.