Religion in Milwaukee

It’s one of the first things you notice as you fly over beautiful Lake Michigan and land in Milwaukee – we’re a city of steeples! Immigrant populations from Germany, Poland, Italy, Ireland and England originally settled Milwaukee and built churches with soaring towers all over the city, and those that followed brought their own faith traditions with them. Today Milwaukee has more than 1,000 houses of worship of all denominations, and deeply rooted religious traditions remain a part of who we are as a city.

Included among Milwaukee’s historic religious institutions is the Basilica of St. Josaphat, completed in 1901. The largest church in Milwaukee, it is home to a vibrant Roman Catholic parish and remains a testament to the faith of the Polish immigrants that created it. The Visitor Center is open six days a week for visits and tours.

The St. Joan of Arc Chapel is the oldest building still used for its original purpose in the Western Hemisphere. Brought over from France and rebuilt brick by brick, it is said that St. Joan of Arc once prayed at this chapel and kissed a stone. As legend goes, the stone is significantly cooler than those around it, and visitors can touch it to see for themselves.

Milwaukee is home to a strong African American faith community. Founded in 1869 by Ezekiel Gillespie, St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church was the first African American church in the state of Wisconsin. Though the church has moved several times, it found its current home in 1969 and maintains an active congregation to this day.

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church is one of downtown's historic German churches. The congregation has worshipped at the same location since 1851, though the beautiful German Renaissance Revival church that stands today was dedicated in 1901. In addition to the historic chapel and worship space, Grace is also home to Grace Place Coffee, a full-service coffee shop open to the public.

The Islamic Society of Milwaukee is a dynamic center serving the religious, educational and social needs of the Muslim community, promoting good citizenship and building relations with other communities. It is the largest Islamic society in Wisconsin and operates three area facilities: ISM Brookfield (Masjid Al-Noor), ISM Main Center and ISM University.

Trinity Lutheran Church was founded by in 1847 by German immigrants. The building is made of Milwaukee’s signature cream city brick and the three church bells still ring out for Sunday services. The building was declared a Milwaukee landmark in 1967, a State Historical Landmark in 1979 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Trinity suffered a tragic fire in 2018 and rebuilding of the historic church is currently in progress. 

St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral is located on the southwest side of Milwaukee. Completed in 1956, the cathedral is covered in traditional wall mosaics that have been described as "some of the most extensive and elaborate church mosaics in the United States." 

In Wauwatosa, the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church was designed by Wisconsin native Frank Lloyd Wright. It offers daily services and group tours on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Milwaukee is also home to the Phuoc-Hau Buddhist Temple, Chinese Christian Church, and the Hindu Temple of Wisconsin.

To passers by, Congregation Beth Jehudah, just west of downtown, is a modest building. But inside, this orthodox Jewish temple is a community learning center that offers services three times per day. The Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center is a nonprofit, social service agency founded upon Jewish ethics and values.

Additionally, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of the Jewish people in southeastern Wisconsin and celebrating the continuum of Jewish heritage and culture.

As Milwaukee’s only Conservative congregation affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Masorti Movement, Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamind on Milwaukee’s north side offers services twice daily.

Milwaukee Religious Institutions