Salt Lake City Home to Catholic Cathedral
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Authored: May 11, 2022

Joel Carson

Cathedral of the Madeleine

Historic Downtown Salt Lake City features a warmth, unlike any other. While modern progress has changed the cityscape dramatically through the decades, Salt Lake has a stronghold on the past. Timeless architectural treasures are meticulously preserved and it ties the past and future together seamlessly.

The highest-priced neighborhoods are those that reflect Utah’s pioneer heritage through well-preserved period homes – many more than a century old. The Avenues, Sugarhouse, Harvard-Yale, Ninth & Ninth, 15th & 15th and Liberty Park are just a few examples. I was recently named Salt Lake City’s #1 Realtor by PropertySpark.com. I have been in the real estate business for more than 30 years here. I can tell you the charm and histories of these Wasatch Front neighborhoods are in high demand.

Gems such as the Cathedral of the Madeleine, 331 E S Temple St, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, draw people to the historic city year after year. There is no sweeter sound than that of the cathedral bells ringing to announce worship services and special occasions.

The Cathedral of the Madeleine was completed in 1909 by the Roman Catholic Church. Today it is the Mother Church of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. It is the only cathedral in the U.S. under the patronage of St. Mary Magdalene.

This tympanum hangs over the main doors of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, Utah. The work of art was seven years in the making and was created by Francis Aretz of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, according to an educational website about the historic building, www.saltlakecathedral.org. This photograph depicts only a portion of the full tympanum.

The elaborate building is well worth a special trip to explore. The Gothic Revival architecture and Romanesque Revival architecture were designed by Carl M. Neuhausen and Bernard O. Mecklenburg.

Construction began on the cathedral in 1900 under the direction of Right Reverent Lawrence Scanlan who served there from 1843 to 1915. It took nine years to complete. The lot on which it was built was purchased in 1890 for $35,000 (my how times have changed). Construction costs reportedly cost $344,000.

The stately building invites the public to visit and share the glory of painstaking details lovingly incorporated into its design in the name of God. It is genuinely awe-inspiring regardless of your religious affiliation.

The Cathedral is open seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is no need to arrange a private tour. Everyone is welcome. 

Adding a little polish to the past

There are six original stained glass windows in the Chapel of Our Lady of Zion on the east side of the main exit from the Salt Lake City Cathedral of the Madeleine. The six windows are “from the early part of this century,” according to an article on www.saltlakecathedral.org. There are also two new windows described as the “Vatican II windows” in the chapel that once served as a baptistery.

The exterior of the cathedral is considered Romanesque. The interior has more of a complementary Spanish gothic flare.

Although the building remains largely the same as it did in the early 20th Century, it did undergo a renovation in 1975 and another in 1980 (although minor improvements were continually made for more than a century). The Most Reverend William K. Weigand oversaw a major two-year renovation in 1991 through 1993. Every aspect of the interior was restored and renovated at a cost of $9.7 million. The work was done by Beyer Blinder Belle of New York.

Following are the main architectural features of the Romanesque era:

  • massive quality
  • thick walls
  • round arches
  • sturdy piers
  • groin vaults
  • large towers
  • decorative arcades

The Salt Lake building features a traditional cruciform shape.

A tympanum over the main entrance tells a story

Francis Aretz is credited with the design of the tympanum over the main entrance. It took seven years to build. Aretz is from Pittsburgh, Penn. The actual pieces of the tympanum were shipped to Salt Lake City in pieces in 1917, according to the cathedral’s website at utcotm.org.

“ … the tympanum features the figure of Christ as High Priest, flanked by an angel on each side; and the Twelve Apostles, sis standing and six kneeling, each with his appropriate symbol. The four great Doctors of the Church, Saints Jerome, Ambrose, Gregory and Augustine appear in the upper half of the work. The four evangelists, Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John appear surrounding the arms of the central cross.” ~ The Cathedral of the Madeleine website utcotm.org.

A Gothic interior is excruciatingly detailed and inspiring

Right Reverend Joseph S. Glass, who became Bishop of Salt Lake in 1915, oversaw the design of the building’s gothic interior.

Glass recruited the help of John Theodor Comes. He was a celebrated American architect. The Comes interior is said to have been inspired by the Spanish Gothic of the late middle ages. The interior project began in 1917.

The interior features thrilling murals and dramatic polychrome. Stained-glass windows let colored sun rays streak into the building. 

The paint, glass, and most other elements of the interior were severely damaged over time by pollution, traffic, and normal elements of wear and tear. That was the purpose of the restoration and remodel in the early 1990s.

This building is one of many located in Salt Lake City that together tell the story of the city’s storied past.

Joel Carson

Salt Lake City's #1 Agent Utah Real Estate President/Principal Broker