The influence of Catholic religious life in the Harrisburg area has a long history. Catholicism first came to Central Pennsylvania before the American Revolutionary War. It was German Jesuits who first constructed the first places of worship starting in 1730. By the early 1800's there was a small Catholic mission in Harrisburg. Along with the rest of the country Irish immigrants contributed to the growth of Harrisburg. The Rev. Patrick Leary bought property on State Street in 1824, and the cornerstone for the first St. Patrick's church was laid two years later. The church was built for $6,500.
The Diocese of Harrisburg was established by Pope Pius IX in 1868. St. Patrick's was named the pro-cathedral of the new diocese. St. Patrick's first cathedral continued in this leadership role for nearly 35 years. Beginning in 1902 Bishop John W. Shanahan proposed that a more permanent cathedral be built in the diocese. A committee was formed and they accepted the plans of Philadelphia architect George I. Lovatt, Sr. Ground was broken for the new church in 1904 and it was completed in March 1, 1907. The cathedral was built for $250,000.
Lovatt's firm was a major benefactor of Catholic commissions during the early 1900's. He received both local and national honors, In 1927 he was joined in the firm by his son George I. Lovatt Jr., but did not retire until 1940.
Construction was not a straight forward process. Bodies that had been buried in the parish cemetery had to be relocated to the new Mount Calvary Cemetery. The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing property in the Harrisburg Historic District in 1976.
If you are a lover of architecture you'll appreciate St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was designed in the Baroque Revival style of that era with Renaissance Revival influences and capped with a classically influenced dome. The exterior of the building is covered in granite from North Carolina. The interior featured wainscoting covered in oriental marble topped with Connemara marble. The main nave is flanked by granite columns that support a vaulted ceiling. There are forty-four stained glass windows in the nave that were imported from Munich, Germany. The original altar was patterned after the Bernini altar found in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. The original pulpit featured carved figures that were patterned after a fresco found in the Roman Catacombs. It showed the four evangelists with the Lamb of God standing on the Mystic mount.
A bronze crucifix in the rear of the cathedral.
We honor the influence of this moving architecture and religious history in Harrisburg that continues today with the kickoff of our latest video.
See Primary Reference for More Insights