St James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral located at 804 Ninth Avenue in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Seattle and the seat of its archbishop, currently Paul D. Etienne. The cathedral is named for St. James the Greater, patron saint of the archdiocese, and is the third church in the territory presently known as the Archdiocese of Seattle to bear the name.

The need for a cathedral in Seattle arose in 1903, when Edward O'Dea, bishop of what was then known as the Diocese of Nesqually (later spelled "Nisqually"), elected to move the Episcopal see from Vancouver, Washington, to Seattle. Construction began in 1905. The Cathedral was dedicated in 1907. In 1916, the cathedral underwent major renovations as a result of the collapse of its dome; other major renovations were completed in 1950 and 1994. The cathedral, rectory, and site were designated city landmarks in 1984.

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The Diocese of Nesqually was established in Vancouver, Washington, on May 31, 1850 by Pope Pius IX. The new diocese's territory was carved from the former Diocese of Walla Walla, which had been abandoned and its territory administered from Oregon City in the wake of the Whitman massacre. Augustin-Magloire Blanchet, the first bishop of the new diocese, dedicated a cathedral in honor of Saints James and Augustine within Fort Vancouver on January 23, 1851.[2]

Blanchet's successor, Aegidius Junger, set out to build a new St. James Cathedral in Vancouver. This building, which was completed in 1885, served as the cathedral for eighteen years and remains a Catholic church to the present day. Junger's successor, Edward O'Dea, realized that Vancouver's importance as an economic and population center was waning and at the urging of Reverend Francis X. Prefontaine, a priest in rapidly growing Seattle, O'Dea moved the episcopal see to Seattle in 1903, and immediately laid plans to build a new cathedral.[3]

O'Dea purchased the current cathedral site in 1903; planning began in 1904, and construction began in early 1905. The laying of the cornerstone of the Cathedral took place on November 12, 1905, in the presence of more than five thousand people.[4] It was said to be the largest religious gathering in Seattle up to that time. While the cathedral was under construction, a small temporary structure, St. Edward's Chapel, served as the pro-cathedral for Bishop O'Dea. It was designed by Seattle architect James Stephen, and was located on the cathedral block, at the corner of Terry Avenue and Columbia Street. The diocese of Nisqually was officially renamed the Diocese of Seattle on September 11, 1907,[5] and the cathedral was dedicated on December 22 of that year.

On February 2, 1916, the 60-foot dome which crowned the cathedral collapsed under the weight of heavy snow accumulation.[6] The dome was never rebuilt, and when the cathedral reopened on March 18, 1917, the interior had changed dramatically. Another major renovation took place in 1950, marking the centennial of the diocese. In 1984, the Seattle city council designated the cathedral, rectory, and grounds as a city landmark.[7]

In 1994, the cathedral underwent its most recent major restoration and renovation, which sought to incorporate changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. The liturgical design consultant for the renovation was Father Richard S. Vosko, a priest of the Diocese of Albany who has overseen the redesign and renovation of numerous churches and cathedrals around the country. These changes included moving the altar from its original location at the east end of the cathedral to the crossing at the center of the building. The renovation also included the installation of an oculus and skylight above the new altar, where the dome had been. As part of the 1994 renovation, relics of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini were sealed beneath the altar; Cabrini had worshiped at the cathedral while she worked in Seattle from 1903 to 1916.[8]

The cathedral today sponsors numerous outreach ministries, to the poor, the homeless, and the marginalized, such as the Cathedral Kitchen, Homeless Ministry & Nightwatch, St. Vincent de Paul, Environmental Justice, Housing Advocacy, and St. James Immigrant Assistance Program. These are operated out of Cathedral Hall and the Pastoral Outreach Center, once the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, who run Holy Names Academy.

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