Originally constructed and dedicated in 1885, Saint Mary Star of the Sea was the first Catholic Church in Key West and the fifth Catholic Church erected in all of Florida. It has a long and storied history, including housing a convent, school and, later, a hospital. Though the original church was destroyed by fire in 1901, it was rebuilt in 1905; the exterior and interior design reflects the eclectic period of American Victorian architecture and was the first non-wooden Catholic church in South Florida.
Today, the Basilica of Saint Mary Star of the Sea is a popular destination for several reasons. In addition to the history contained within its grounds and the tranquility felt in the church, the property is also home to a Grotto containing statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Bernadette. Built to keep Key West and its residents safe from hurricanes, it seems to fulfilling its mission; the island has not suffered from a severe storm since the Grotto was constructed in 1922. The grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes is a well-known pilgrimage site, especially during hurricane season. There is also a Stations of the Cross Garden, constructed with Carrera marble and illuminated at night, and a perpetual adoration chapel, which opened in 1995.
The Vatican named Saint Mary Star of the Sea as a Minor Basilica in 2012; it’s the first basilica in the Archdiocese of Miami and the fifth in Florida.