Cathedral of the Holy Cross (Boston)

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Cathedral of the Holy Cross
North and west facades of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts
42°20′26″N 71°04′10″W / 42.340693°N 71.069344°W / 42.340693; -71.069344

1400 Washington Street

Boston, Massachusetts
Country United States of America
Denomination Roman Catholic
Dedicated 8 December 1875
Status Cathedral
Architect(s) Patrick Keely
Style Gothic Revival
Groundbreaking 29 April 1866
Capacity 1700 people
Length 364 feet
Width 90 feet
Height 120 feet
Materials Roxbury puddingstone and gray limestone
Archdiocese Boston
Archbishop Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley
Rector Kevin J. O’Leary, VF
Vicar(s) Carlos Lopez
Deacon(s) Ricardo M. Mesa
2009 Palm Sunday Tridentine Mass in a chapel of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross
Cathedral of the Holy Cross as it appeared c. 1881

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and is the largest Roman Catholic church in New England.[1]

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 29 April 1866 and the completed structure was dedicated on 8 December 1875 by Williams, who by then, was Boston's first archbishop.[2]


The cathedral was designed by Patrick Keely, a noted ecclesiastical architect, in the Gothic Revival style. Construction was supervised by John A. Dempwolf.[3] 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.[2]

The cathedral retains its E. and G.G. 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.[4][5]

Notable events[edit]

On 19 January 1964, Richard, Cardinal Cushing Celebrated a Requiem for President John F. Kennedy [6] that was recorded and broadcast to the nation. The Boston Symphony Orchestra accompanied the Mozart Requiem.[7]

On 1 October 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.[8]

On 18 April 2013, an interfaith prayer vigil in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings took place at 11 a.m. at the cathedral, with President Obama speaking.[9][10]

Cathedral High School[edit]

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.[11]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edwin M. Bacon, Ed. (1886). Boston Illustrated. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. 
  2. ^ a b "About". Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  3. ^ Virtual York: An Architectural Experience: The Dempwolf Contribution to York's Streetscape
  4. ^ "Holy Cross Cathedral, Boston, Massachusetts". Andover Organ Company. Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  5. ^ "E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings Organ, opus 801, 1875". American Guild of Organists. Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Brian C. Mooney (2005-04-03). "In Boston, America first greeted John Paul". The Boston Globe ( Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  9. ^ Angela Nelson (16 April 2013). "Upcoming reflection services for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing". The Source ( Retrieved 2013-04-16. 
  10. ^ Obama preaches ‘a state of grace’ in Boston. The Washington Post. Published: 18 April 2013.
  11. ^ "About CHS". Cathedral High School. Retrieved 2011-07-19. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°20′26″N 71°04′11″W / 42.34056°N 71.06972°W / 42.34056; -71.06972