Cathedral Basilica set to mark 100th birthday Oct. 27
By Jean Torkelson
Photo by James Baca/DCR
A century of history will come full circle for the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Oct. 27.
Archbishop Samuel Aquila will be the main celebrant at the 4:30 p.m. anticipated Mass, exactly 100 years to the day when Bishop Nicholas Matz blessed the new facility while standing at spire-level, 200 feet above the now iconic landmark at Colfax Avenue and Logan Street in Denver.
More details of the upcoming weekend follow and also are in the accompanying box.
On Oct. 27, 1912, the streets below Bishop Matz teemed with an estimated 10,000 wellwishers during the dedication ceremonies. A parade joined by city dignitaries wound through the streets. Cardinal John Farley of New York presided over the weekend liturgies.
A century later, the celebration will be less flamboyant, but still festive. The intervening years have brought Denver’s “Mother Church” much to celebrate. In 1979, the pope elevated her to the status of “Cathedral Basilica,” a church to which special privileges are attached. In 1993, during World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II was the honored guest and stayed in the rectory.
Restoring ‘the glory’
Then there is the extensive $1.3 million restoration of the Cathedral Basilica, which is now virtually complete. It was first proposed in 2001 by Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap and then-rector Auxiliary Bishop José Gomez. But the actual work began in 2007 under the direction of Msgr. Thomas Fryar, who has served as rector from 2006 to today.
In the 1970s a major architectural update had introduced dark woodwork and utilitarian, mid-20th-century design elements. The goal of the recent restoration, which was undertaken by Eidos Architects of Greenwood Village, was to recapture the French Gothic elements that led to it being dubbed in 1912, “The Pinnacled Glory of the West.”
The new restoration emphasizes liturgical harmony and encourages the interplay of architecture and natural light. The complex work required a myriad of different tasks such as delving into historical documents and recovering materials such as the original fine marble. A new altar and a repositioned baptismal font represented two design milestones. The sound and lighting systems were also updated.
CATHEDRAL BASILICA'S 100TH ANNIVERSARY EVENTS
See website for updates and other events: www.denvercathedral.org
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 23
When: 4:30 p.m. Oct. 27
When: 10:30 a.m. Oct. 28
When: 12:30 p.m. Oct. 28
When: 6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 28
For more information, contact Mary Ellen Lederman at 303-831-7010 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
The result has been a recapturing of “the stark beauty, the stately and beautiful setting” of the original, Msgr. Fryar said.
“We have tried to get back to the intent of the original community, which is to make this a showcase of faith that is going to draw people,” he said. “We feel we have been able to accomplish that.”
Msgr. Fryar emphasized that the 100th anniversary will be about the people who have formed the Cathedral Basilica’s family since her beginning. He pointed out that grass-roots fundraising led to the building of the facility and also her restoration. In the early 1900s wealthy donors, as well as countless hardworking families of shopkeepers, mechanics and clerks, contributed $500,000 to build the Cathedral Basilica (about $11 million in today’s money).
In the 2000s annual fundraisers and donations, large and small, also led to her restoration. Msgr Fryar called the enthusiasm and generosity for the project “an outpouring of the people.”
A celebration for the people
In honor of the generations of hardworking people who have played their part—including parishioners past and present, and anyone who feels a special love for the Cathedral Basilica—all are being invited to attend one of the six regular Masses the weekend of Oct. 27-28.
While everyone is welcome at any of the Masses, three of them are specifically designated for people with a unique connection to the Cathedral Basilica. People who were baptized there are invited to be at the Saturday 4:30 p.m. Mass. Couples married there are invited to the Sunday 10:30 a.m. Mass. Students of the old Cathedral High School or elementary school are invited to the Sunday 12:30 p.m. Mass.
In addition, a dinner and silent auction will be held the evening of Oct. 27 to raise $250,000 for the critical update of the 100-year-old system of bells. Last spring it was discovered that the original wooden frame, which supports 15 bells weighing a total of more than 17,000 pounds, was starting to pull apart.
For safety’s sake, a steel frame will be installed. Until that is completed, the bells of the Cathedral Basilica will remain silent for the first time in 100 years.
The final phase of the restoration will include repainting of the interior and cleaning of the stained glass windows and century-old Kimball organ.
Jean Torkelson: 303-715-3122; www.twitter.com/DCRegister