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St. James Cathedral (Seattle)

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Title: St. James Cathedral (Seattle)  
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Subject: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, Cathedral of St. James, Cathedrals in the United States, First Hill, Seattle, St. Edward Seminary
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

St. James Cathedral (Seattle)

St. James Cathedral
Panoramic view of the western façade
St. James Cathedral (Seattle) is located in Washington (state)
Location 804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic
Status Cathedral
Architect(s) Heins & LaFarge
Style Renaissance Revival
Completed 1907
Dome height (outer) 120 feet (37 m) – collapsed in 1916; never rebuilt
Number of spires Two
Spire height 167 feet (51 m)
Diocese Archdiocese of Seattle
Archbishop Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain

Very Rev. Michael G. Ryan

Designated March 12, 1984[1]
The cathedral towers from nearby Frye Art Museum
Interior of the nave of St. James Cathedral
The centrally-placed altar
Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary

St. James Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral church located at 804 Ninth Avenue in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, United States. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Seattle and the seat of its archbishop, currently J. Peter Sartain. 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 and was completed 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.


  • History 1
  • Art & music 2
  • Pastors 3
  • Pictures 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


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 St. James Church located within Fort Vancouver as the cathedral on January 23, 1851.[2]

Blanchet's successor, Egidius Junger, set out to build a new St. James Cathedral in Vancouver. The building, which was completed in 1885, served as the cathedral for nearly 20 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.[2]

O'Dea purchased the current cathedral site in 1903; planning began in 1904, and construction began in early 1905. The cornerstone was laid November 12, 1905, with more than 5,000 people in attendance. It was said to be the largest religious gathering in Seattle 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,[3] and the cathedral was dedicated on December 22 of that year.

On February 2, 1916, the 120-foot dome which crowned the cathedral collapsed under the weight of heavy snow accumulation.[4] 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.[5]

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 renovation was supervised by Father Richard S. Vosko, a liturgical design consultant and priest of the Diocese of Albany who has overseen the redesign and renovation of numerous churches and cathedrals around the country.[6] These changes included moving the altar from its traditional location at the east end of the cathedral to the crossing and installing an oculus and skylight above the new altar, where the dome had been.[4] 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.[7]

The cathedral campus today includes buildings for cathedral outreach service. Outreach ministries such as Health and Healing, Homeless Ministry & Nightwatch, St. Vincent de Paul, Environmental Justice and St. James ESL, the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program operate from the Pastoral Outreach Center, once the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, who run Holy Names Academy. The rectory and cathedral hall buildings are located on the campus.

Art & music

Major artwork at St. James Cathedral include an extensive collection of stained glass by Charles Connick, installed in 1917-1920, during the rebuilding of the cathedral following the collapse of the dome. In 1994, three new windows were added, the work of Hans Gottfried von Stockhausen, a noted German stained-glass artist, who has served on the faculty of the Pilchuck School. In 1999, ceremonial bronze doors were added, the work of German sculptor Ulrich Henn. A bronze tabernacle by the same artist was installed in 2003.[8] Henn's only other works in the United States are the bronze gates at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. St. James Cathedral is also home to an altarpiece by Florentine artist Neri di Bicci, dating to 1456. It represents the Madonna and Child surrounded by six saints.

The cathedral's original choir space in the west gallery features an organ built by the Boston firm of Hutchings-Votey (Opus 1623). This organ was installed and voiced by E. M. Skinner in 1907. In 1926 the east apse was converted into an additional choir area when a second organ built by Casavant was installed in the east end. In 2000, the Casavant was replaced with the Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Millennium Organ, built by Los Angeles, California (Opus 30) [9]


1906–1910 – Monsignor Daniel A. Hanly
1910–1919 – Monsignor William J. Noonan
1919–1935 – Monsignor James G. Stafford
1935–1943 – Father William Henry O'Neill
1943–1954 – Father John Gallagher
1955–1973 – Bishop Thomas E. Gill
1973–1988 – Father William E. Gallagher
1988–present – Very Rev. Michael G. Ryan


  • Interior and exterior photos
  • Interior and exterior photos
  • Interior and exterior photos
  • Interior and exterior photos


  1. ^ "Landmarks and Designation". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  2. ^ a b Caldbick, John J. (29 August 2009). "Bishop Augustine Blanchet dedicates Washington's original St. James Cathedral at Fort Vancouver on January 23, 1851". Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  3. ^ "Archdiocese of Seattle". 13 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  4. ^ a b Walt Crowley (20 January 2011). "Snow Collapses Church Dome". Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. HistoryLink. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  5. ^ "Individual Landmarks: Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for S". Department of Neighborhoods, City of Seattle. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  6. ^ "Saint James Cathedral". Richard S. Vosko. Retrieved 2011-12-31. 
  7. ^ "St. James Cathedral, Seattle". Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  8. ^ "Virtual Tours-Bronze Doors". St. James Cathedral. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 
  9. ^ "Virtual Tour-Organs". St. James Cathedral. Retrieved 2011-12-30. 

External links

  • Official Cathedral Site
  • Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle Official Site

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