Weekend celebration will usher in Cathedral’s second century
The following story appeared in the April 30 Idaho Catholic Register.
By Gene Fadness
If only those majestic, stone walls that surround the altar of the now more than 100-year-old Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist could speak.
“Imagine every single word spoken in that building somehow embedded in those walls; all the baptisms, the weddings, the ordinations,” said Father Mariusz Majewski, rector of the Cathedral. “Think of all the people who passed through who lived during the First World War, the Second World War and the civil rights movement. So many generations of Catholics have built this church. We have a great responsibility to receive that patrimony and move forward with it, building up the Church for future generations.”
The Cathedral is moving into its second century with both a new look and, on the altar, the restoration of a former look.
The grand staircase leading to the main entrance on the Cathedral’s east side and the stairs leading to the south entrance have been replaced. The new design provides a welcoming space with an enlarged platform at the top of the steps. The tread of the stairs is lengthened and the rise shortened to make climbing less difficult.
The brass-relief sculptures at the base of the stairs leading to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist contain three scenes from the Gospel of St. John. From left, the Wedding at Cana, the Washing of the Feet, and the Race to the Tomb. The sculptures were created by Boise-area artist Michael Dente. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
Six-foot high brass-relief sculptures by noted Boise artist Michael Dente – all depicting scenes from the Gospel of John, patron saint of the Cathedral – are mounted on a large podium at the base of the east entrance.
Inside, the Cathedral’s Tabernacle, as well as the 4.5-ton reredos (dome and columns housing the tabernacle) have been relocated to their original position at the center of the sanctuary. The Bishop’s Baldacchino and cathedra (canopy and chair), which formerly occupied the center position, has been moved to north wall of the sanctuary.
That is just the start of the legacy that the Catholic faithful plan for the Romanesque Cathedral’s second century. Now is the time to celebrate.
The Cathedral community is inviting the entire Diocese to its Solemnity of Corpus Christi celebration on the weekend of June 5-6. The highlight will be the Corpus Christi Mass and Eucharistic procession and Adoration that follows.
The celebration, which begins just three days after the June 3 ordination of four new priests for the Diocese, will also serve as an observance of the 100th anniversary of the Cathedral’s dedication, which took place on May 30, 1921.
The weekend’s events will include a blessing of the new altar area, the new steps and the brass-relief sculptures, a presentation on the history of the Cathedral, an organ and choral concert and a street festival that will include live music, food and religious artifact vendors, games and even a cake-decorating competition.
“After such a difficult year with the pandemic, the lockdown and the inability to publicly celebrate the Easter Triduum in 2020, this can be a new opening, a beautiful, spiritual event for the community and the Diocese as we look forward to our continued walk with God,” Father Mariusz said.
“It’s a time of joy and gratefulness to our ancestors and to the Catholic community that has been present in the Diocese for so many years,” he said.
DURING THE MASS for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, Bishop Peter will bestow a papal blessing with a plenary indulgence to those who attend the Mass. A Bishop can impart a papal blessing with plenary indulgence up to three times a year within his own Diocese.
Father Mariusz emphasizes that the weekend celebration is for the entire Diocese, not just the St. John’s parish community. “While it is true that our Cathedral is a parish, it is also the Mother Church of the entire Diocese,” he said. Father Mariusz points to the motto printed in every bulletin: “Our Parish, Your Cathedral.”
Invitations have been sent to each parish to send representatives with their parish banner to be processed during the Mass and also during the Corpus Christi procession as it makes its way through down-town Boise.
Not only does the Cathedral belong to the entire Diocese, but it also belongs to the people of Idaho as an historic landmark, added in 1978 to the National Register of Historic Places.
The weekend’s events are as follows:
Saturday, June 5, 6:30 p.m. – Boise historian and author John O’Hagan will give a presentation on the history of the Cathedral. O’Hagan is author of Stone Wondrously Hewn: The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. The “coffee table” book, in an 8 ½- by 11-inch format, is filled with 211 pages of history, and illustrations, many in color detailing the art, architecture and history of the Cathedral. Copies of the book may be obtained by contacting the Cathedral office at 208-342-3511.
Saturday, June 5, 7 p.m. – Organ and choral concert. The organ, like the Cathedral, is also 100 years old and, like the Cathedral, has had some upgrades. A major renovation in the mid-1900s added digitized pipes increasing the number of ranks (a rank is one pipe for each key) from 44 to 50-plus, according to Dr. Ray Morvant, director of music at the Cathedral for the past 12 years.
The Tellers-Kent Organ was the most expensive item installed in the Cathedral a century ago. Its cost of more than $17,000 exceeded even the cost of the stained-glass windows, according to O’Hagan’s history. At the time it was built, it was the largest organ in Idaho and one of the largest in the Northwest.
When the Cathedral was dedicated in 1921, the original music director, Frederick Beale, presented a two-night organ recital, which, on the first night, included the “Seven Last Words of Christ.” Dr. Morvant and the Choir will do that again this year.
Sunday, June 6, 10 a.m. – Corpus Christi Sunday Mass with Bishop Peter Christensen.
Sunday, June 6, 11 a.m. – Corpus Christi Eucharistic procession through downtown
Boise, pausing at the center of downtown for Benediction and Adoration before returning to the Cathedral. A special surprise awaits those as they return to the Cathedral.
Sunday, June 6, 1 to 8 p.m. – Eighth Street, between Hays and Fort streets (immediately in front of the Cathedral) will be closed off for a street festival including live music, food trucks, vendors, games, family activities and docent-led Cathedral tours. Bishop Peter and Father Mariusz will judge a cake decorating competition limited to 24 entries. Winners will be announced at 2 p.m. The cakes will be used as prizes for the winners of the cakewalk.
PART OF THE weekend’s celebration will include a dedication of the new Tabernacle and monstrance, the stairs and the brass-relief sculptures, said Deacon Daniel Gamboa, director of administration at the Cathedral.
Deacon Daniel Gamboa, left, and Father Mariusz Majewski, rector of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist stand next to the new Tabernacle and repositioned reredos (dome and columns) at the center of the Cathedral’s sanctuary. (ICR photos/Vero Gutiérrez)
Moving the Tabernacle back to the center of the altar area has been a desire of Bishop Peter, Deacon Gamboa and many in the St. John’s community for a few years.
“The mission of the Church is to bring souls to Christ and make Him the center of our lives,” said Father Mariusz and Deacon Gamboa in a letter to parishioners. “We believe this should be reflected in our worship space, especially at the Mother Church of our Diocese. Restoring Jesus to the center of our Cathedral, the most prominent place of honor, will assist the faithful into a deeper understanding of Christ truly present and alive in the tabernacle, and lead to a deepening of true adoration and devotion.”
The Cathedral launched a fund-raising effort in February that, by the time the project was completed earlier this month, had raised the entire $200,000 needed to complete the work.
Bishop Peter will bless the Tabernacle, which is new. The Bishop’s Chair, though moved, is the original, so it will not be blessed, Deacon Gamboa said.
The Bishop’s Chair, or Cathedra, the center of these three chairs, was moved from the center of the altar area at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral to the north side wall to make way for the Tabernacle which has been moved back to the center of the sanctuary. (ICR photo/Vero Gutiérrez)
Also blessed will be the brass-relief sculptures at the outside entrance of the Cathedral which give passers-by on a busy Boise street the opportunity to see intricate depictions of the Wedding at Cana, the Washing of the Feet, and the Race to the Tomb.
“It is such a beautiful method of street evangelization for us to have scenes of Gospel of John on such a prominent display in downtown Boise,” Father Mariusz said.
“Many times I encounter people, many of them non-Catholic and some non-Christian who are admiring the bronze sculptures. They are a proclamation of the gospel through art as the Church has done for centuries.”
The design for St. John’s Cathedral is based on the Basilica of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse, France, and the cathedral of Mainz, Germany, the hometown of the Cathedral’s architect, Charles F. Hummel.
According to the Cathedral’s website, St. John’s Cathedral was the dream of Bishop Alphonse Glorieux, under whose direction it was built.
Bishop Glorieux, a native of Belgium who was the president of St. Michael’s College in Portland, was appointed in 1884 by Pope Leo XIII to be the Vicar-Apostolic in Idaho and in 1893, the first Bishop when the Diocese of Boise was created.
BY 1902, WITH population increasing, Bishop Glorieux realized the wood frame Cathedral at the northwest corner of Ninth and Bannock Streets would soon be obsolete. Built in 1876, it was Boise’s second Catholic church. (St. Patrick’s, on the old site of the former St. Alphonsus Hospital on Fifth and State streets, was the first, but it burned to the ground 18 days after completion in 1870.)
Bishop Glorieux purchased the site of the present Cathedral and selected the plans of Tourtelotte and Hummel, the foremost architectural firm of the period in Boise. The cornerstone was laid in 1906.
Bishop Glorieux refused to allow the parish to go into debt to erect the Cathedral, so it was built in stages. By 1912, Masses were held in the basement and by 1916 the superstructure was completed.
The Bishop hoped to finish the Cathedral before his death, but the coming of World War I frustrated his hope. Bishop Glorieux died in 1917, a week after the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood.
His successor, Bishop Daniel Gorman, undertook the completion of the Cathedral. On May 30, 1921, the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist was finally dedicated. Following extensive restoration and rearrangement, the Cathedral was rededicated in 1979.
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