Each time the Chapel is open to the public for tours, the lower mausoleum fascinates visitors. What is down there? Is it really a crypt? Who is entombed there? As with any notable mausoleum, there is much history and mystery to this one.
On each side of the High Altar, there are two winding staircases leading to a spacious mausoleum. This mausoleum follows the shape of the chapel above. At the bottom of the stairs, wrought iron gates open into the upper crypt area. This section is below the chapel’s sanctuary and High Altar. A wide staircase then descends to an even lower, second crypt.
The upper crypt level contains nine vaults, and the lower area contains thirty-six. This provides a total of forty-five vaults.
The entire mausoleum was intended exclusively for clergy. However, only one priest is entombed. His name is Rev. Idziego Tarasiewicza, founder of St. Casimir’s Parish in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. His biography is an interesting one. But that is a topic for a future article.
The reason no additional clergy were entombed remains unanswered.
At the far end of the crypt, below the entrance to the Chapel, is a sealed archway. Originally, the road wrapped around Jesuit Hill twice, passing an entrance to a tunnel. The tunnel lead to this sealed archway. During a funeral procession, the casket would be carried through the tunnel and into the mausoleum. The entrance on the hill no longer exists.