The Cathedral of St. Paul, Minnesota


There have been four Roman Catholic cathedrals in St. Paul. The first three were built between 1841 and 1858. The fourth, and the most architecturally distinctive, opened in 1915. Since then, no building in the Twin Cities has approached it in ambition or magnificence.

The massive granite cathedral at the foot of Summit and Selby Avenues is the fourth in the history of the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The first was Father Lucien Galtier’s log-cabin Chapel of St. Paul, elevated to the status of cathedral with the 1851 arrival of Bishop Joseph Cretin. A three-floor brick building succeeded it later in 1851; a bigger one in stone followed in 1856. Both stood in downtown St. Paul.


Between 1850 and 1900 St. Paul grew from a village to a city of over 160,000. Many of the new citizens were Roman Catholics, mostly of German and Irish origin. In 1904 Archbishop John Ireland (1838–1918), a potato-famine Irish immigrant and a protégé of Joseph Cretin’s, decided to build yet another cathedral.

Ireland hired French architect Emmanuel Masqueray (1861–1917). Together they conceived a building with a grandeur rivaled only by Cass Gilbert’s state capitol, completed in 1906.


The Cathedral of St. Paul: a masterpiece dreamed up by Archbishop John Ireland and architect Emanuel Masqueray | MinnPost


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