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Dedication of Sts. Peter and Paul – December 21, 1906

The Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Indianapolis has a long history. On December 21, 1906 the building was formally dedicated by Bishop Chatard. However, becasue there was still work to be done on the building, the first dedication took place “privately”, at least without a great deal of fanfare.

According to Dr. James Divita, professor emeritus at Marian Univeristy, in his book, “Indianapolis Cathedral – A Construction History” the ceremony began at 6:00am on the morning of December 21, 1906.

In late 1906 Bishop Chatard decided on a private dedication of the new Cathedral. He wanted to use the building for Christmas services. Since the Cathedral was not finished – workmen frequented the site until late summer 1907 – and construction of the facade was delayed, a public dedication seemed appropriate at some later date. So at six o’clock in the morning on a wintry 21 December 1906, Meridian Street passersby on their way downtown were startled by shadowy figures in procession around the exterior of the building: it was the bishop in pontificalia accompanied by clergy. Bishop Chatard recited the prescribed prayers and sprinkled the Cathedral with holy water to bless it. Then Auxiliary Bishop and Vicar General Denis o ‘Donaghue , pastor of St. Patrick’s, consecrated the high altar. All witnesses were clerics: Joseph Chartrand and George Smith, rector and assistant at the Cathedral; Michael J. Gorman, John T. O’Hare, and Peter Killian, assistants at St. John’s; Raymond R. Noll, assistant at St. Patrick’s; and Daniel Curran, pastor of St. Bridget’s. At 10:30 on Christmas morning Bishop Chatard celebrated, and Father Chartrand preached at, the first Pontifical High Mass in the Cathedral. 1

Prior to this time what is now the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was used as the church. The rectory, (Bishop’s house) as well as the Chapel were begun in July 1891. Bishop Chatard dedicated the chapel on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1892. Of course it would be another six years before an actual “cathedral” could be built since Chatard was still Bishop of Vincennes and the Cathedral was that of St. Francis Xavier. Still, Chatard wished to establish a parish in this location.

The style and architecture of the Cathedral was based on Bishop Chatard’s wishes reflecting his extensive time in Rome as the Vice-Rector and Rector of the North American College. The Cathedral would be styled after St. John Lateran and parts of St. Peter’s in Rome, although the facade, as we now know it, was not completed until 1936, under the episcopate of Bishop Ritter.

  1. Divita, James J. 1986. Indianapolis Cathedral: a construction history of our three mother churches. Archdiocese of Indianapolis, p.38[]

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