Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater

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Proto-Cathedral of
St. James the Greater
Vancouver, WA - St. James Catholic Church 02.jpg
St. James in 2014
Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater is located in Vancouver Washington
Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater
45°37′51″N 122°40′23″W / 45.6307°N 122.6731°W / 45.6307; -122.6731Coordinates: 45°37′51″N 122°40′23″W / 45.6307°N 122.6731°W / 45.6307; -122.6731
Location 218 W 12th St.
Vancouver, Washington
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic
Status Pro-cathedral
Style Gothic Revival
Completed 1885
Materials Brick
Archdiocese Seattle
Archbishop Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain
Pastor(s) Rev. W.R. Harris

The Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater (formerly St. James Catholic Church) is a church building and parish of the Catholic Church located in Vancouver, Washington, United States. The parish is part of the Archdiocese of Seattle and traces its roots to the initial arrival of missionary priests in the Oregon Country in the 1830s; its first dedicated church building was built in 1846. The church was elevated to a cathedral when the Diocese of Nesqually (the original name of the Archdiocese of Seattle) was established in 1850; the present-day church building was completed in 1885. It was reverted to a parish church when the present-day St. James Cathedral opened in Seattle in 1907.[1] The church building was listed on the Washington Heritage Register in 1986.[2] The church was formally dedicated as a proto-cathedral, i.e., former cathedral, in 2013.


In the 1830s, French Canadian Catholic employees of the Hudson's Bay Company petitioned the bishop in their native Quebec to send priests to what was then known as the Oregon Country. François Norbert Blanchet and Modeste Demers were sent to the area and arrived at Fort Vancouver in 1838. Blanchet and Demers held Masses in various buildings within the fort, and Catholics often had to share worship space with Protestants, an arrangement that did not please either group. In 1845 Blanchet gained the company's permission to build a new church just outside the fort, and the wooden building was dedicated as St. James Church on May 30, 1846.[1]

In July 1846, the Vatican established three Catholic dioceses in the Oregon Country: Oregon City, Vancouver Island, and Walla Walla. Augustin-Magloire Blanchet, François Blanchet's younger brother, was appointed bishop of Walla Walla. The Walla Walla diocese was abandoned shortly after, in the wake of the Whitman massacre; however, on May 31, 1850, the Vatican under Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Nesqually, with Augustin Blanchet as its bishop. Blanchet chose to have his new diocese headquartered in Vancouver, and chose the existing St. James Church as his cathedral. The church was formally dedicated as St. James Cathedral on January 23, 1851.[1]

Blanchet retired in 1879 and his successor, Egidius Junger, set out to build a new cathedral in Vancouver. Construction began in 1884 and the 145-metre (476 ft)-long cathedral was dedicated as St. James Cathedral the following year. The original church, meanwhile, burned down in 1889.

Junger's successor, Edward John O'Dea, realized that Vancouver was no longer the economic and population center it once was. In 1903, O'Dea transferred the episcopal see of the Diocese of Nisqually to Seattle and immediately set out to build a new cathedral there. The diocese was officially renamed the Diocese of Seattle in September 1907, and the present-day St. James Cathedral in Seattle was dedicated in December of that year. St. James Cathedral in Vancouver, meanwhile, was reverted to a parish church, as it had been before the diocese's establishment, and remains a parish church to the present day.

In 2013, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain announced that St. James Church would be formally designated as a proto-cathedral (former cathedral) in order to recognize the church's historical significance to the Archdiocese of Seattle. It was formally dedicated by Archbishop Sartain on October 25, 2013, and the church was renamed the Proto-Cathedral of St. James the Greater.[3][4]


  1. ^ a b c Caldbick, John J. (29 August 2009). "Bishop Augustin Blanchet dedicates Washington's original St. James Cathedral at Fort Vancouver on January 23, 1851.". Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "Listed Historic Places in Washington" (PDF). Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Vogt, Tom (9 January 2014). "New name honors Catholic church's history". The Columbian. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Cleaveland, Janet (27 September 2013). "St. James, Vancouver: Proto-Cathedral". Northwest Catholic. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 

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