Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Providence

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Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Providence
The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is a Roman Catholic cathedral at Cathedral Square in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. It is the mother church of the Diocese of Providence. The Romanesque church was built in 1878 by Patrick C. Keely and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

On December 10, 1837 a small cement structure costing $12,000 was opened and the first mass was celebrated at the church of Sts. Peter and Paul. Within the next five years, the population of Catholics continued to grow and flourish. In 1844, a new Diocese was formed with its See at Hartford, Connecticut. Its Bishop, William Tyler elected to take up residence in Providence, as the majority of Catholics resided there. As the number of Catholics in the region continued to grow, the Sts. Peter and Paul Church building could not accommodate the increasing numbers of Irish Catholic immigrants. By 1872 the Catholic population in the Diocese had risen to 200,000. Bishop McFarland had expressed interest in building a new and larger Cathedral but did not obtain the support for it at the time. Upon Bishop Mcarland's request for a reduced area to serve in 1871 due to failing health, Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Providence that encompassed Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts and Martha's Vineyard. In April 1872, Father Thomas Hendricken became the first Bishop of the new diocese of Providence. The new diocese, at the time of its inception, recorded a Catholic population of 125,000; forty-three churches; fifty-three priests; six academies; nine parish schools with 4,225 students and one orphan asylum. Just as his predecessor, Bishop Hendricken was also in favor of building a new Cathedral church to replace the current decrepit and inadequate structure. Before this could be accomplished, a $16,000 debt of the parish had to be paid before any building began. Bishop Hendricken worked tirelessly, day in and day out to get the Cathedral built. In 1872 the debt was paid off and preliminary construction planning began. In 1873 Patrick C. Keely was selected to draw up the plans for one of the finest churches in the country. In 1874 work on the foundation of a temporary church for worshippers was begun when Bishop Hendricken signed a contract for the church building at a cost of $18,950. The old rectory was torn down and a new one built at the corner of Fenner and Pond Streets where it still stands to this day. The cornerstone of the current Cathedral was laid in 1878. Bishop Hendricken had set aside $10,000 each year toward the building of the new structure. He also mounted a series of fundraising campaigns to keep construction going. By 1882 the roof was completed, allowing completion of the interior to begin. However, that year Bishop Hendricken's failing health gave out and he died before the Cathedral was completed. His funeral Mass was the first to be celebrated in the not quite finished Cathedral. At the time of his death $300,000 had been expended. In June 1889, more than a decade after construction began, the completed Cathedral was finally consecrated by Bishop Matthew Harkins. After nearly 80 years of use the Cathedral underwent a major renovation, intended to be completed in time for the 100th Anniversary of the foundation of the Diocese. The work was initiated by Bishop Russell J. McVinney, the 5th Bishop of Providence; however, much like his first predecessor, Bishop McVinney did not live to see the completion of the newly renovated Cathedral. In 2006 the basement of the Cathedral which holds the church hall was renovated to accommodate parish gatherings and diocesan functions. In addition, the basement crypt was dismantled. A new stone tomb was laid in the upper church, as a final resting place for Bishop Hendricken. It was thought that Bishop Hendricken deserved a more prominent place in the building, as the Cathedral is considered to be his legacy. The other bishops buried in the crypt were moved to a mausoleum in Cranston.

The Cathedral's interior bears close resemblance to Holy Name Cathedral, the Seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The firm of Keely, Patrick Charles and Schlacks designed both buildings. The tabernacle was cast in bronze by X. Corberro and Sons of Barcelona, Spain. The small finial ornament atop the tabernacle took some 58 hours to complete. The main altar is built of Verde Issoire, a green marble quarried in the French Alps. Green marble serves as decorative wainscoting along the walls and comprises the interior columns along the nave. The ceiling contains large gothic arches, along with several oil paintings. Stained glass windows feature scenes from both the new and old testaments and are fashioned from antique Munich Glass as are the West Rose Window, East Rose Window and Great Circular Window. A large stone sarcophagus lies in the West Transept, containing the remains of Bishop Thomas Francis Hendricken, first bishop of Providence.

The building is constructed of Connecticut Brownstone and is one of the more prominent pieces of architecture in the city of Providence. There are two spires which contain four church bells representative of the Four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They were cast in a Dutch foundry and were dedicated in 1968 by the late Bishop McVinney.

Built by the Casavant Frères company of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, and installed in 1972 in the North Transept. It consists of four 56-key manuals, a 32-key pedalboard, 73 stops and 125 ranks. There are 6,616 pipes ranging from 6 inches to 32 feet in length. This is the largest mechanical action organ in North America and one of the largest ever built by Casavant Frères.

Building Activity

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