A monument to faith – The building of our cathedrals
By Kathy Cordes, Diocesan Archivist
As we watch in anticipation, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is changing over this next era. We celebrate all our cathedrals that came before with magnificent ornamentation and majestic history.
Our diocese was once known as the Diocese of Lead City. The first St. Patrick Church, “the white church,” was built In 1878, but destroyed by fire in the early 1900s. A second church was built, and in 1902, this church was dedicated as St. Patrick Cathedral of Lead City establishing the first Catholic cathedral. This beautiful, ornate church was praised for its majestic decor — white and gold altar, matching statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, and a lovely pulpit.
St. Mary Immaculate Conception Parish in Rapid City became the second cathedral of the Diocese of Rapid City, known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception when the Holy See re-established the diocesan see to Rapid City on August 7, 1902 by Pope Leo XIII.
“Immaculate Conception Parish is one of the only buildings left in Rapid City which still exists with a Romanesque Revival architecture. The preservation of this church building is important in understanding the development of our city and it is the last known building erected as an example of the art of hand cut stone cutting, and examples of indigenous stone material” (application to National Historic Places).
These words are the significance that awarded this parish a historical place with the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. A few of the architectural features describing ICC are the cut sandstone from a local quarry covering most of the exteriors and foundation. All the openings employ compound Romanesque arches with radiating voussoirs. The stones in the top course of the plinth, surrounded by the building, serve as the first floor windowsills. Recessed stain glass windows are present along with the square bell tower which has a pyramidical termination that is covered by terneplate.
Prior to ICC being listed on this registry, Bishop McCarty started the groundbreaking for the current cathedral, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He stated that he wanted it built on top of a hill overlooking the city because it was our “most regal’ church.”
The cornerstone was laid in 1962. The cathedral is built with stone from Mankato, Indiana, limestone and from local quarries. It also features a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The stained-glass window in the choir loft is known as cement glass. The cathedra (bishop’s chair) is made from hand carved walnut. The interior has several types of marble imported from Italy, Swedish Sifolino marble and terrazzo floors, to list a few. “It reflects a style of restrained contemporary architecture befitting the simple majesty of the Black Hills which serve as its setting” (Church directory 1963).
There is so much more history and amazing points of interest in our cathedral! We will continue to honor Our Lady of Perpetual Help with historical fun facts, brain-teasers, trivia, and more news that began as the C.SS.R Chronicles and Cathedral Chronicles. Watch social media and relish in our “eternal house of the Lord.”
Fr. M.J. Noessen stands in the interior of St. Patrick Cathedral circa 1902.
(Photos courtesy of the diocesan archives)
Laying of the cornerstone on St. Mary Cathedral, Rapid City, in 1904.
The font of the campaign booklet featured the artists rendering of the cathedral with the baptistry on the north side of the building.