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On May 20, 1841, following a religious procession through the streets of Victorian St. John's, Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming blessed the corner-stone for the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John's. Stone for the building came from Newfoundland and Irish Sites, and construction proceeded on the designs of German architect C. Schmidt, Irish architects J.J. Butler, William Deane, John Jones and others, with final modifications by Bishop Fleming himself. Both Catholics and Protestants eagerly worked on the project, but delays in construction were many.On January 6, 1850, Bishop Fleming celebrated the First Mass in his unfinished cathedral and on July 14 of that year he died and was laid to rest in the cathedral crypt.
The Cathedral was completed by Bishop Fleming's successor, Bishop John T. Mullock, and consecrated on September 9, 1855, with the Archbishop of New York, John Hughes, in attendance. At that time the Cathedral was one of the largest church buildings in British North America, measuring 246 feet long, 180 feet across the transept, 55 feet high inside, and having a seating capacity of 2000. Together its twin towers, 150 feet high, hold a town clock and nine Irish bells, including the prizewinning two-ton St. John Bell, cast in 1850 by James Murphy of Dublin. In 1955, on the Centenary of its consecration. Pope Pius XII bestowed upon the cathedral the rank of Minor Basilica, an honorary title meaning "Royal House" or "House of the Emperor", in recognition of its outstanding architectural, artistic, and historical significance.
When Fleming became the Vicar Apostolic of Newfoundland the only Roman Catholic place of worship in St. John's was ``a rude, ill-shaped wooden building falling to ruin,'' known as the Old Chapel.
Information and Records for Basilica Cathedral
I would like to thank Ann Carew for sending the brochure on the
history of the Basiilica and to Larry Dohey for the picture
Contributed by Barbara McGrath (July 2000)
Page Revised: July 2002 (Don Tate)
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