History of the Cathedral
In 1833, a French missionary, Father Benedict Roux, arrived with instructions to form a permanent parish. At 11th and Broadway, the community built a log cabin church in 1835, and named it St. John Francis Regis.
Father Bernard Donnelly was a circuit-riding priest. From 1845 until his death in 1880, Donnelly tirelessly served the local Catholic people. He initiated the building of a permanent brick church on the site in 1857. Donnelly recruited 300 Irish day laborers to cut away the bluffs, level the ground and establish a brick works. The brick yard produced building material for the church that Donnelly consecrated Immaculate Conception.
As the population grew, dioceses formed in St. Joseph in 1868 and in Kansas City in 1880. When Bishop John Joseph Hogan arrived in 1880, he selected Donnelly's church to become the Cathedral. Some 10,000 people witnessed the laying of the cornerstone in 1882.
Ready for services on Trinity Sunday, 1883, the walls were not yet plastered, and temporary windows hurriedly were set into place. Newspapers reported that over 3,000 people attended the services that began at 10:30 a.m. and continued uninterrupted until 3:00 p.m. Because the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was built on the highest ground in the city, at 250 feet above street level -- the cupola quickly became a civic landmark.
In 1895, the growing community added a carillon of eleven bells. Crafted in 1912 by local artisans, the Cathedral's stained glass windows depict scenes from the life of Christ and other biblical themes.
Bishop Edwin V. O'Hara authorized a renovation in 1955. The interior remodeling simplified the Cathedral's interior. After 74 years of weathering the elements, the Cathedral's copper dome began to deteriorate. Bishop John P. Cody created a Kansas City landmark when he finished the dome, cross and cupola with gold leaf in 1960.
The diocesan capital campaign, Gift of Faith, provided funds to improve the Cathedral at the close of the century. With thanksgiving to Our Lord and the people of God of our diocese, we dedicated the restored and renovated Cathedral on Saturday, February 22, 2003.
OTHER HISTORICAL FACTS
- When the Cathedral opened it was the tallest building in Kansas City, Missouri. Tickets were sold to persons wishing to ascend the staircase to see the view.
- On December 8, 1895, one of the most unique carillons in Kansas City was installed in the Cathedral tower. The bells are named after saints: St. Anna, St. Bernard, St. Catherine, St. Cecilia, St. Edward, St. Elizabeth, St. Helen, St. John, St. Mary and St. Thomas. The largest and most often rung bell is St. Thomas.
- In 1912, stained glass windows were installed. The windows were made by local artists at the Kansas City Stained Glass Works Company.
- During the 1920's and 1930's the Cathedral Choir reached a level of excellence. It wasn't unusual for their special concerts at the Grand Theatre to have a standing room only crowd.
- From 1903 until 1945, the Cathedral ran St. Christopher's Inn at 534-536 Main Street. St. Christopher's Inn was a S.R.O. (Single Room Occupancy) for homeless men.
- In 1960, the dome, cupola and cross were covered with 23-carat gold leaf.
BISHOP BOLAND'S HOMILY AT THE REDEDICATION
CATHEDRAL RENOVATION NOTES