St. Mary Cathedral Basilica (Galveston, Texas)

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St. Mary Cathedral Basilica
St Mary's Cathedral Basilica, Galveston.jpg
St. Mary Cathedral Basilica in 2006
St. Mary Cathedral Basilica is located in Texas
St. Mary Cathedral Basilica
St. Mary Cathedral Basilica
St. Mary Cathedral Basilica is located in the United States
St. Mary Cathedral Basilica
St. Mary Cathedral Basilica
29°18′15″N 94°47′25″W / 29.30417°N 94.79028°W / 29.30417; -94.79028Coordinates: 29°18′15″N 94°47′25″W / 29.30417°N 94.79028°W / 29.30417; -94.79028
Location2011 Church St.
Galveston, Texas
CountryUnited States
DenominationRoman Catholic
WebsiteSt. Mary Cathedral Basilica
StatusCathedral - Minor Basilica
DedicationBlessed Virgin Mary
ConsecratedNovember 26, 1848
Architect(s)Theodore Eugene Giraud, with later addition by Nicholas J. Clayton
Architectural typeGothic
Length40 meters (130 ft)
Width23 meters (75 ft)
Other dimensions1 acre (0.40 ha) (grounds area)
Number of spiresThree
Spire height24.3 meters (80 ft)
MaterialsImported Belgian brick and mortar
ParishHoly Family
ArchbishopCardinal Daniel N. DiNardo
St. Mary's Cathedral
NRHP reference No.73001964[2]
RTHL No.7172
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJune 4, 1973
Designated RTHL1967

St. Mary Cathedral Basilica, also known as St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica, is a Roman Catholic place of worship situated in Galveston, Texas. It is the primary cathedral of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and the mother church of the Catholic Church in Texas, as well as a minor basilica.[3] Along with the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, St. Mary's serves more than 1.5 million Catholics living in the Archdiocese.[4][5]


In 1840, the Rev. John Timon, the newly appointed Apostolic Prefect of Texas, named fellow Vincentian priest Rev. John Odin, C.M., to be the resident Vice-Prefect of Texas. Fr. Odin embarked from New Orleans on a schooner bound for the Texas coast, arriving in Galveston early in 1841. There he found a community of Catholics eager to build a church for their small congregation.

In the months that followed, Father Odin procured enough money to begin construction of a wooden-frame church.[6] He was assisted in this venture by Colonel Michael B. Menard and Dr. Nicholas Labadie, prominent Galvestonians. Colonel Menard is to be remembered as one of the founders of the City of Galveston.

On February 6, 1842, one month before his consecration as a bishop, Odin dedicated the completed structure to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The small, rectangular building measured 22 feet (6.7 m). Odin, now the Apostolic Vicar of Texas, purchased a five-room cottage as the episcopal residence. He made an addition to the church structure of a small sacristy, and bought thirty benches for the convenience of his parishioners.

Stereoscopic view of the Cathedral, circa 1865.
Sanctuary of St. Mary Cathedral Basilica
St Mary's Cathedral, Galveston

In 1845, Bishop Odin purchased 500,000 bricks from Belgium, which were shipped to Galveston as ballast. He would use the bricks in the construction of his dream: a larger, permanent church.[7] The little frame church was moved out into the street, and work on the new St. Mary's began in 1847. The ceremony of laying the cornerstone took place on Sunday, March 14. Father Timon came to Galveston for the event and preached the sermon before a large crowd. On May 4, 1847, Pope Pius IX approved the establishment of the Diocese of Galveston and named Odin as its first bishop.[6][8][9]

On November 26, 1848, the Cathedral was ready for dedication.[6] Once more Father John Timon was chosen as the principal speaker because of his close association with, and his pioneer work in, the diocese.

The Cathedral Basilica is notable as being one of the few buildings in Galveston that survived the devastating 1900 Galveston Hurricane with only minimal damage.[9]

Due to the tremendous growth in the City of Houston, in 1959 the Most Reverend Wendelin J. Nold, fifth bishop of the diocese, asked that the Diocese be re-designated the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. This created a co-capital or "see" city in Houston, and Sacred Heart Church in Houston was named the "Co-Cathedral" of the Diocese. This did not change the status of Galveston as a see city nor St. Mary Cathedral's place in the Diocese.[10] Since St. Mary Cathedral was the first Catholic cathedral in the State of Texas, and the original Diocese of Galveston encompassed the entire state, it has the distinction of being the mother church of all the Catholic dioceses in Texas.[1]

St. Mary's Cathedral, Galveston, Texas (postcard, circa 1890-1924)

St. Mary Cathedral was named a Texas state historic landmark in 1968 and a national historic landmark in 1973. In 1979, in recognition of the Cathedral's importance to the community and the State of Texas, as well as the historical impact it had on Catholicism in the state of Texas, Pope John Paul II elevated St. Mary Cathedral to the status of a minor basilica.[11]

The basilica today[edit]

The Cathedral Basilica sustained significant water damage during Hurricane Ike in 2008 and was closed for repairs until Easter 2014.[12]

In 2009, the Archdiocese appointed a director of special projects to oversee the Cathedral Basilica's restoration. As of July 2012, the roof was replaced, the pews were rebuilt and refinished, steel armature reinforcements were added to the two front spires, the confessionals and Stations of the Cross were refinished, and exterior masonry repairs, coating and chemical remediation had all been completed. A new concrete substructure was being built to support the floor, which is currently supported by the original wooden beams that were installed when the Cathedral Basilica was constructed in 1847.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Vara, Richard (March 30, 2008). "The state's first cathedral in need of major repair". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. November 2, 2013.
  3. ^ Archdiocese Cathedral History Archived January 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "About Our Diocese". Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. 2007. Archived from the original on February 16, 2005. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  5. ^ Dooley, Tara (March 30, 2008). "A shining achievement". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Dooley, Tara (March 30, 2008). "The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston began in a wood-frame church during the Republic of Texas". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  7. ^ Long, Steve (January 2, 1989). "Floods and storms, and now pestilence". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  8. ^ "History". Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Archived from the original on 2012-04-15. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  9. ^ a b Dooley, Tara (January 4, 2003). "At 155, Galveston's St. Mary's still battles the storms". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  10. ^ Duin, Julia (November 4, 1989). "Bishops celebrate 200th birthday". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 4, 2010.
  11. ^ "Histories of the Cathedral". St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica. Archived from the original on 20 March 2008. Retrieved 2016-03-23.
  12. ^ Cousins, Rick. "Parish consolidates Galveston, Bolivar Catholics". Galveston Daily News. Retrieved 2010-06-04.
  13. ^ Torrellas, Rebecca (2012-07-17). "Resurrecting history: Repairs continue at St. Mary Basilica". Texas Catholic Herald News. Retrieved 2012-08-02.

External links[edit]