Cathedral of the Holy Cross

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and the largest Roman Catholic church in New England.

When construction was finished the cathedral rivaled both Old South Church and Trinity Church in grandeur, signalling the emergence of Roman Catholics in what was, at the time of construction, a largely Protestant city and state.

The cathedral is located in the city's South End neighborhood, at 1400 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118. Although the South End was initially developed for Boston's emerging Anglo-Saxon Protestant middle class, the neighborhood transitioned to new immigrants, especially Irish, as middle class owners moved to the new Back Bay neighborhood.

The cathedral functions both as a Cathedral, and as a Parish. The Cathedral Parish consists of large English and Hispanic congregations, drawn largely from the local area, and also includes three Archdiocese-wide congregations, the Ge'ez (Ethiopian/Eritrean/Egyptian) Rite Catholics, who moved from close-by Holy Trinity Catholic Church in 1994, the German Apostolate (moved from Holy Trinity in 2008), and the Tridentine Rite (or Extraordinary Form) Catholic community (also moved from Holy Trinity in 2008).


"In 1860, Bishop John Fitzpatrick recognized that the church in Boston had outgrown the old Cathedral on Franklin St. However, plans for the new cathedral were disrupted by the outbreak of the Civil War. Bishop Fitzpatrick died in 1866 and Bishop John Williams took over planning for the cathedral project. Ground was broken on April 29, 1866 and the completed structure was dedicated on December 8, 1875 by Williams, who by then, was Boston's first archbishop.


The cathedral was designed by Patrick Keely, a noted ecclesiastical architect, in the Gothic Revival style. The building measures 364 ft (111 m) in length and is 90 ft (27 m) at its widest. It is constructed of Roxbury puddingstone with gray limestone trim and reaches a height of 120 ft (37 m) however, the planned western spire was never completed.

The cathedral retains its Hook and Hastings pipe organ, opus 801, which was installed in 1875. The organ console was replaced in 1929 with a used theatre organ console when the instrument was updated. In 2003, the Andover Organ Company created and installed its opus R-394, a replica of the original three-manual console, and updated wiring and made other needed repairs.

On October 1, 1979, Pope John Paul II held a 38-minute prayer service for 2,000 priests in the cathedral during his first pilgrimage to the United States.

Cathedral High School

In 1927, Cardinal William O'Connell founded Cathedral High School adjacent to the church and charged the Sisters of St. Joseph with operating the institution. The school remains at this site today.