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Saint Pope John Paul II Visit

Pope John Paul II at Living History FarmsDuring his apostolic journey to the United States from October 1-8, 1979, Pope John Paul II traveled from Boston to New York and then Philadelphia before arriving in Des Moines, IA with his final stops in Chicago and Washington D.C. before returning back to Rome.

On October 4, 1979 Saint Pope John Paul II made a historical visit to Des Moines, Iowa and celebrated an outdoor mass at Living History Farms. Approximately 350,000 people from around the country, the largest crowd in Iowa history, flocked to the Farms on a cold and rainy autumn day. As the Pope arrived in a helicopter, the skies parted and the bright sun came out.

Prior to his first visit to the United States, the Pope received a letter from Iowa farmer Joe Hayes. Written at his rural home kitchen table, the farmer invited the Pope to travel to Iowa on his U.S. tour to speak on stewardship of the land. The Pope did just that – speaking on gratitude, conservation, and generosity of the land and those who farm it.

Crowd to see Pope John Paul IIThis was a monumental visit in the life of Living History Farms. The Pope’s visit attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to Living History Farms and Des Moines.

When Living History Farms’ Church of the Land was constructed as part of the 1876 town of Walnut Hill, a stained glass window of the church was privately donated to the museum to commemorate Saint Pope John Paull II’s visit.

1979 Papal Visit Photo Gallery

Video of Pope’s Mass from Iowa State University’s Special Collections and University Archives

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