Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral
Façade of Proto-Cathedral, photographed 1934
General information
Architectural style Greek Revival
Town or city Bardstown, Kentucky
Country United States of America
Completed 1823
Client Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York
Design and construction
Architect John Rogers of Baltimore.[1]

The Basilica of Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral is a Catholic parish church at 310 West Stephen Foster Avenue in Bardstown, Kentucky. It is the former cathedral mother church of the former Roman Catholic Diocese of Bardstown. During its years as a cathedral, the pastor was Benedict Joseph Flaget, the first Bishop of Bardstown.


The cornerstone was laid on July 16, 1816, with construction beginning thereafter. Materials used for its construction were found in the immediate area. The architect and builder was John Rogers of Baltimore.[1] By 1819 it was sufficiently completed for Mass to be held. The interior was fully complete by 1823. Many of the paintings and interior decorations were donated by Pope Leo XII, King Louis-Philippe of France and others. The gift from the King of France included paintings by Murillo, Van Dyke and others. Gifts of royal embroidered vestments—the handwork of the queen and her court—and sacramental vessels were also made.[2]

Paintings from King Louis[edit]

The paintings were stolen from the church November 12, 1952.[5] The paintings were valued at $875,000 at the time. The paintings were recovered during April and May 1953.[6]

Painting from King Francis I of the Two Sicilies[edit]

The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew, Mattia Preti

The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew, Mattia Preti,was painted in Naples around 1650. In the early 19th century, King Francis I of the Two Sicilies made a gift of the picture to the Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Kentucky, where it remains to this day. After suffering many years of neglect and misguided restorations (including complete over-painting of the surface in the 1950s), the picture was sent to the Getty for study and development of a plan for treatment. Two years of difficult work have restored the picture, and the exceptional character and quality of the original is once again visible. The painting was returned to Bardstown in time for re-consecration of the Proto-Cathedral as a Basilica in August, 2002.[7][8]

Historical significance[edit]

Interior showing altar

The proto-cathedral is the first Catholic Cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains.[9] On January 9, 1974, the proto-cathedral was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On June 3, 1976, the listing was expanded to include the adjacent Spalding Hall and Flaget Hall, originally St. Joseph College.

Over time, the location of the cornerstone was lost, until 1980 when it was uncovered during restoration of part of the building.

On July 18, 2001, Pope John Paul II elevated it to the honor of a minor basilica church and an umbraculum was installed at the altar.[10]

Diocese of Bardstown[edit]

The Diocese of Bardstown was erected into an Episcopal See April 8, 1808 by the Holy See. This diocese was the first inland diocese in the United States. The primal see or proto-Diocese of the United States, the Diocese of Baltimore, was subdivided into the dioceses of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown (Baltimore becoming the Archdiocese of Baltimore).

The See of the diocese of Bardstown was moved to Louisville in 1841, and St. Joseph's was replaced as Cathedral by St. Louis Church (now the Cathedral of the Assumption) on Fifth Street in Downtown Louisville. St. Joseph's therefore became the "proto" or first cathedral. The Diocese of Louisville was elevated to Archdiocese in 1939.

In 1995, the Holy See honored the proto-cathedral by naming retired Bishop Charles G. Maloney, the Titular Bishop of Bardstown. Maloney died on April 30, 2006.[11] He was succeeded by Bishop Daniel E. Thomas on June 8, 2006.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Zanesville (Ohio) Times Recorder, May 14, 1939, page 7
  2. ^ the Altoona Mirror, March 30, 1928, page 2.
  3. ^ The Chicago Daily Herald, October 21, 1949, page 17
  4. ^ The Brownsville (Texas) Herald, June 7, 1941, page 2
  5. ^ The Kokomo (Indiana) Tribune, November 13, 1952, page 1
  6. ^ The Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal, May 21, 1953
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ Day, Teresa (January 30, 2005). Fun With the Family Kentucky: Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids. Globe Pequot. p. 38. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  10. ^ The Casa Grande (Arizona) Dispatch, September 7, 2002, page 12
  11. ^[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°48′39″N 85°28′20″W / 37.810833°N 85.472222°W / 37.810833; -85.472222