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The Cathedral of Saint Paul

2120 3rd Ave N
205-251-1279

History:
The current majestic brick building replaces a small (30′ x 60′) wooden frame church first built in 1872 on a lot adjacent to the present site. The land for the current location was purchased in January 1880; by May of the same year, under the first resident pastor, the Rev. John Browne, a rectory was built and the church was moved on site and enlarged.

The present building was planned by the Rev. Patrick O’Reilly, the second pastor. The cornerstone was laid on June 11, 1890 and the building was dedicated on November 30, 1893, having cost approximately $90,000 to complete.

The church was extensively renovated in 1955, when, among other things, air conditioning was installed. In 1972, structural repairs were effected and the sanctuary was re-ordered. In 1992, additional work was done in preparation for the Cathedral’s centennial. Most recently, a complete renovation of the exterior was finished in 2015.

The Cathedral is widely considered to be a handsome example of the American variation on the neo-gothic style. Gothic architecture is philosophically Christian: in its determined verticality, the gothic structure pulls the eye to heaven and inspires the mind to lofty thoughts. The strong contrast of color on the Cathedral’s exterior, with the native red brick and white limestone of the walls, and the polychromatic banding in the slate roof, show the taste of the international gothic revival of the 1870s.

The main entrance has a central statue of Christ above the doors. Upon entering, one sees that the church is built in basilica form, having a semicircular domed apse at one end, with a center aisle and two side aisles. Ten solid granite columns support vaults and arches indicative of the neo-gothic style.

The baptismal font stands at the door of the church to remind those entering that Baptism is the doorway to faith and the life of the Church. Those who enter dip their hand in the Holy Water and mark themselves anew with the sign in which they were baptized – the sign of the Cross.

The central part of the church, extending from the entrance hall, or narthex, to the apse, is called the “nave” (from the Latin word for “boat”), and provides the assembly space for God’s people at prayer. The confessional is located immediately to the let upon entering through the center doors to the nave.