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Saint Cecilia Cathedral

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art (National Register of Historic Places)

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Saint Cecilia Cathedral has had a presence in Omaha since the early 20th century. Though it took many years to complete, the Cathedral has been active in the Catholic community for more than 100 years. It is considered a historical part of the city and, with its recent renovations, it should last for many years more.

Photo was taken at the Archdiocese of Omaha. J.J. Harty, check to Thomas Rogers Kimball, 20 November 1918, Archive Box 68, fol.1, Archdiocese of Omaha Collection, Archdiocese of Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska.
Taken on April 28th 2017. This is a picture of a sculpture of Saint Cecilia. The Saint that the Cathedral was dedicated to.
Kretschmer Camera Company. Saint Cecilia interior. 1950. Archive box 68, fol.22, Archdiocese of Omaha Archival Collections, Archdiocese of Omaha
Kretschmer Camera Company. Saint Cecilia interior. 1950. Archive box 68, fol.22, Archdiocese of Omaha Archival Collections, Archdiocese of Omaha
Taken April 28th 2017. Stain glass windows that decorate the interior of the Cathedral.
Taken April 28th 2017. The front entrance of the Cathedral.
Taken April 28th 2017. This is a picture of the two massive towers of the Cathedral. They stand at 255 ft tall.

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Saint Cecilia Cathedral has a long history in the Catholic community of Omaha, Nebraska. Before the construction of the Cathedral, the Saint Cecilia Parish existed. The Parish was formally organized in 1888.[1] Involved in the community early on, the Parish was known for its donations to the St. James Orphanage.[2] In 1905, the diocese decided to build a cathedral in honor of Saint Cecilia and chose Thomas Rogers Kimball as the lead architect.

Kimball was the most celebrated architect in Nebraska during the early 1900s. Unlike the popular ecclesial architecture of the time (Gothic Revival), Kimball chose to design the Cathedral to resemble the architecture from the Spanish Renaissance. His deviation from Gothic Revival was met with resistance, but he succeeded. Financing for the project was the next important step. The Parish and the diocese in Omaha were cautious and were not willing to go into debt over the project. Instead, the entire Omaha Catholic community was expected to contribute through donations. Each stage of construction was paid for before another stage began.[3]

For example, Kimball was paid in installments of around five hundred dollars.[4] On October 6th, 1907, the cornerstone of Saint Cecilia Cathedral was laid.[5] Thousands of members from the various Catholic societies of Omaha marched to commemorate this event, and it made the front page news of the Omaha World Herald.[6] Early documentation of the formal establishment of the Cathedral can be found in the 1907 city directory.[7] Unfortunately, that same year the country was hit with a severe recession and construction was halted.[8] This would be the first of many times construction of the Cathedral would be delayed. Jeremiah Harty became bishop in 1916, and he was the first to use the Cathedral for public ceremonies although it was still far from finished.[9]

Though Omaha became an archdiocese in 1945, progress on the Cathedral construction was slow up until then.[10] However, between 1946 to 1959, Archbishop Bergan pushed for the completion of the Cathedral, especially the interior.[11] The Kretschmer Camera Company was hired to photograph the interior as it underwent construction.[12] Under the leadership of Archbishop Bergan, the stained glass windows, interior marble walls, and the Cathedral’s two towers were finished in 1959.[13] On April 9th, 1959, Saint Cecilia Cathedral was consecrated as it was deemed debt-free and completed.[14]

In 1979, twenty years after its consecration, the Cathedral was registered as a significant historical place by the National Register for Historical Places.[15]

Many years of extreme Nebraskan seasons had resulted in damage to the Cathedral, such as water damage to the roof. Brother William Woeger F.S.C. led a team of architects, designers and historians to restore the interior in 1999. The most dramatic renovation done was the painting of the apsidal dome in Iberian colors of terra cotta, yellow ocher, and blues. The roof was completely redone in 2000, and in 2001 the Spanish Colonial Art Collection was added. The paintings were gathered through private donations and some date back to the 17th and 18th century Spanish colonial period.[16]

One issue the Cathedral and the Archdiocese of Omaha had to face was the accommodation of Hispanic members. Between 1990 and 2000, the Hispanic population increased by 139.9 percent. This proved to be a challenge as few priests and nuns were fluent in Spanish and there was a lack of financial resources to extend substantial social services.[17]

Despite this problem, Saint Cecilia Cathedral continues to be deeply rooted in the Omaha Catholic community. The Cathedral frequently hosts the Cathedral Arts Project, the Omaha Symphony, and the Cathedral Flower Festival. This displays their patronage for the arts. More than 1600 families are registered to the Cathedral, and it is involved in outreach to the poor, the Hospitality Center, and the Spiritual Renewal Program.[18]

A frequent visitor and member of the Cathedral has described it is a “silent anchor around our lives.”[19] Saint Cecilia Cathedral continues to be a trusted source of religious spirituality for people even after one hundred years which is why it is historical significant to Omaha, Nebraska.





Sources

[1] Thomas A Kuhlman, Suzanne Arney, Louise Joyner, eds., The Beauty of Thy House: The History, Art, and Architecture of Saint Cecilia Cathedral (n.p.:  Quebecor Books, 2005), p. 113.

[2] “Presents for Orphans,” Omaha World Herald, p.6, 22 July 1900, NewsBank Inc., http://infoweb.newsbank.com.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/resources/search.

[3] Kuhlman, Arney, Joyner, The Beauty of Thy House (n.p.: Quebecor Books, 2005), 90-116.

[4] J.J. Harty, check to Thomas Rogers Kimball, 20 November 1918, Archive Box 68, fol.1, Archdiocese of Omaha Collection, Archdiocese of Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska.

[5] “Catholicism’s Great Day in Omaha,” Omaha World Herald, p.1, 6 October 1907, Newsbank Inc., http://infoweb.newsbank.com.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/resources/doc.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Omaha Directory Co., Omaha City Directory 1907, Omaha City Directory, 1907-1908, Criss Library, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, University Microfilms, 1907.

[8] Kuhlman, Arney, Joyner, The Beauty of Thy House (n.p.: Quebecor Books, 2005), 116-121.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The website of Saint Cecilia Cathedral; www.stceciliacathedral.org

[11] Kuhlman, Arney, Joyner, The Beauty of Thy House (n.p.: Quebecor Books, 2005), 120-121.

[12] Kretschmer Camera Company. Saint Cecilia interior. 1950. Archive box 68, fol.22, Archdiocese of Omaha Archival Collections, Archdiocese of Omaha.

[13] Kuhlman, Arney, Joyner, The Beauty of Thy House (n.p.: Quebecor Books, 2005), 120. 

[14] The website of Saint Cecilia Cathedral; www.stceciliacathedral.org

[15] “National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Forms,” National Register of Historic Places Collection, 25 January 1979, National Register of Historic Places. http://npgallery.nps.gov.

[16] Kuhlman, Arney, Joyner, The Beauty of Thy House (n.p.: Quebecor Books, 2005), 10-47.

[17] Larsen, Lawrence H., et al. Upstream Metropolis: An Urban Biography Of Omaha & Council Bluffs (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007), p.424.

[18] Kuhlman, Arney, Joyner, The Beauty of Thy House (n.p.: Quebecor Books, 2005), 126-128.  

[19] Shaffer, Brian. St. Cecilia’s: A Cathedral for the Ages. 2000. UNO Television © 2000, Omaha, Nebraska, Criss Library. Videocassette, 29 min. 


Address
701 North 40th street
Omaha, NE 68131
Phone Number
402-551-2313
Tags
  • Cultural History
  • Religion
  • Urban History
This location was created on 2017-04-08 by Naomi Bernal , University of Nebraska at Omaha; Instructed by Sharon Wood.   It was last updated on 2017-05-05 by Naomi Bernal , University of Nebraska at Omaha; Instructed by Sharon Wood.

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