St. Mary Cathedral Basilica (Galveston, Texas)

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This article is about the Cathedral Basilica of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. For other uses of St. Mary Basilica, see Basilica of St. Mary (disambiguation).
Saint Mary Cathedral Basilica
St. Mary Cathedral Basilica (Galveston, Texas) is located in Texas
St. Mary Cathedral Basilica (Galveston, Texas)
29°18′14.85″N 94°47′25.13″W / 29.3041250°N 94.7903139°W / 29.3041250; -94.7903139
Location 2011 Church Rear St.
Galveston, Texas
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic
Website www.marycath.org
Architecture
Status Cathedral
Architect(s) Charles G. Bryant, with later addition by Nicholas J. Clayton
Architectural type Gothic Revival
Groundbreaking 1847
Completed 1847
Specifications
Capacity 400+[1]
Length 40 meters (130 ft)
Width 23 meters (75 ft)
Number of spires Three
Spire height 24.3 meters (80 ft)
Materials Imported Belgian brick and mortar
Administration
Archdiocese Galveston-Houston
Clergy
Archbishop Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
St. Mary Cathedral
Area 1 acre (0.40 ha)
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 73001964[2]
Added to NRHP June 4, 1973

St. Mary Cathedral Basilica, also known as St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica is a Roman Catholic place of worship situated in Galveston, Texas. It is the primary cathedral of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the mother church of the Catholic Church in Texas, as well as a basilica church.[3] Along with the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, St. Mary's serves more than 1.5 million Catholics living in the Archdiocese.[4][5]

History[edit]

In 1840, the Rev. John Timon, the newly appointed Apostolic Prefect of Texas, named fellow Vincentian priest Rev. John Odin, C.M., to be the resident Vice-Prefect of Texas. Fr. Odin embarked from New Orleans on a schooner bound for the Texas coast, arriving in Galveston early in 1841. There he found a community of Catholics eager to build a church for their small congregation.

In the months that followed, Father Odin procured enough money to begin construction of a wooden-frame church.[6] He was assisted in this venture by Colonel Michael B. Menard and Dr. Nicholas Labadie, prominent Galvestonians. Colonel Menard is to be remembered as one of the founders of the City of Galveston.

On February 6, 1842, one month before his consecration as a bishop, Odin dedicated the completed structure to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The small, rectangular building measured 22 feet (6.7 m). Odin, now the Apostolic Vicar of Texas, purchased a five-room cottage as the episcopal residence. He made an addition to the church structure of a small sacristy, and bought thirty benches for the convenience of his parishioners.

Stereoscopic view of the Cathedral, circa 1865.
Sanctuary of St. Mary Cathedral Basilica

In 1845, Bishop Odin purchased 500,000 bricks from Belgium, to be shipped to Galveston as ballast. He would use the bricks in the construction of his dream: a larger, permanent church.[7] The little frame church was moved out into the street, and work on the new St. Mary's was begun in 1847. The ceremony of laying the cornerstone took place on Sunday, March 14. Father Timon came to Galveston for the event and preached the sermon before a large crowd. On May 4, 1847 Pope Pius IX approved the establishment of the Diocese of Galveston and named Odin as its first bishop.[6][8][9]

On November 26, 1848, the Cathedral was ready for dedication.[6] Once more Father John Timon was chosen as the principal speaker because of his close association with, and his pioneer work in the diocese.

The Cathedral Basilica is notable as being one of the few buildings in Galveston that survived the devastating 1900 Galveston Hurricane [9] with only minimal damage.

Due to the tremendous growth in the City of Houston, in 1959 the Most Reverend Wendelin J. Nold, the fifth bishop of the diocese, asked that the Diocese be re-designated the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. This created a co-capital or "see" city in Houston, and Sacred Heart Church in Houston was named the "Co-Cathedral" of the Diocese. This did not change the status of Galveston as a see city nor St. Mary Cathedral's place in the Diocese.[10] Since St. Mary Cathedral was the first Catholic cathedral in the State of Texas, and the original Diocese of Galveston encompassed the entire state, it has the distinction of being the mother church of all the Catholic dioceses in Texas.[1]

St. Mary's Cathedral, Galveston, Texas (postcard, circa 1890-1924)

St. Mary Cathedral was named a Texas state historic landmark in 1968 and a national historic landmark in 1973. In 1979, in recognition of the Cathedral's importance to the community and the State of Texas, as well as the historical impact it had on Catholicism in the state of Texas, Pope John Paul II elevated St. Mary Cathedral to the status of a minor basilica.[11]

The basilica today[edit]

The Cathedral Basilica sustained significant water damage during Hurricane Ike and was closed for repairs.[12]

In 2009 the Archdiocese appointed a director of special projects to oversee the Cathedral Basilica's restoration. As of July 2012, the roof has been replaced, the pews have been rebuilt and refinished, steel armature reinforcements have been added to the two front spires, the confessionals and Stations of the Cross have been refinished, and exterior masonry repairs, coating and chemical remediation have all been completed. A new concrete substructure is being built to support the floor, which is currently supported by the original wooden beams that were installed when the Cathedral Basilica was constructed in 1847.[13]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Vara, Richard (March 30, 2008). "The state's first cathedral in need of major repair". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  3. ^ Archdiocese Cathedral History[dead link]
  4. ^ "About Our Diocese". Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. 2007. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  5. ^ Dooley, Tara (March 30, 2008). "A shining achievement". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Dooley, Tara (March 30, 2008). "The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston began in a wood-frame church during the Republic of Texas". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  7. ^ Long, Steve (January 2, 1989). "Floods and storms, and now pestilence". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  8. ^ "History". Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  9. ^ a b Dooley, Tara (January 4, 2003). "At 155, Galveston's St. Mary's still battles the storms". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  10. ^ Duin, Julia (November 4, 1989). "Bishops celebrate 200th birthday". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010. 
  11. ^ St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica Website (archive.org)
  12. ^ Cousins, Rick. "Parish consolidates Galveston, Bolivar catholics". Galveston Daily News. Retrieved 2010-06-04. 
  13. ^ Torrellas, Rebecca (2012-07-17). "Resurrecting history: Repairs continue at St. Mary Basilica". Texas Catholic Herald News. Retrieved 08-02-2012.