Many familiar items restored during renovation project
Many of the features of the renovated Sacred Heart Cathedral are brand new — the baptismal font, the altar and the chairs that now take the place of pews, for example. However, visitors to the cathedral will recognize many familiar elements as well. While the cathedral was closed for renovation, a number of its key elements were refinished and restored to their original beauty, according to Father John Mulligan, pastor and diocesan vicar general.
“So many of the things that were in the original church have really sort of had to be repaired and refinished,” Father Mulligan said. “It’s a renovation, but it’s also a restoration.”
One such element is the large statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was “the key emblem on the back wall” before the renovation, Father Mulligan said. The statue was taken down and refurbished and is now displayed on the outer wall of the narthex, or gathering space between the cathedral and the rectory.
The cathedral’s oaken ambo also was removed and refurbished. The ambo was taken off its pedestal, modified and mounted on the platform and stairs behind the altar. It is located directly behind and a little above the altar so that homilists are “literally going to be preaching right over the altar,” emphasizing the connection between the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Father Mulligan said.
The tabernacle housing the Blessed Sacrament is now located in a new eucharistic chapel to the left of the sanctuary. The tabernacle itself is rich in history: It originally belonged to Rochester’s St. Philip Neri Church. In 1967 Father George J. Weinmann, pastor, and School Sister of Notre Dame Lilian Marie McLaughlin perished while trying to rescue the Blessed Sacrament from this tabernacle during a fire that devoured the church.
The tabernacle also incorporates several elements from the tabernacle of the former St. Patrick’s Cathedral, according to Father Joseph Marcoux, parochial vicar at the cathedral parish.
“The cloisonné panels on the sides of the newly restored and refurbished tabernacle were originally from a tabernacle in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in downtown Rochester. They were displayed at Sacred Heart Cathedral for many years and have been incorporated into the new tabernacle,” Father Marcoux said.
An ornately carved wooden baldachin, or canopy, and its support, which originally were located behind and above the bishop’s chair in St. Patrick’s, now adorn the tabernacle. The baldachin sits over the tabernacle, and the canopy’s support provides a backdrop for it.
High above the ambo, a wooden crucifix stands atop the rood beam, which separates the sanctuary from the altar area. The crucifix stood at Sacred Heart from 1927, when the church was built, until 1957, when both it and the rood beam were removed. The crucifix was put into storage, where it remained until its restoration this year. The rood beam supporting the crucifix is new, although it was designed to resemble the cathedral’s original rood beam.
A conscious effort was made to keep and reuse as many elements of the cathedral as possible, Father Mulligan said. Three-inch slabs of marble that had been part of the cathedral’s former high altar now act as plinths, providing bases for statues of St. Joseph and St. John Fisher. These statues, which used to be located on side altars, are now housed in shrines along the sides of the nave.
Eight painted shields, representing the eight bishops of the Diocese of Rochester, have been retouched and hung along the banister of the choir loft, where several restored pews have been placed for overflow seating, Father Mulligan said.
The cathedral’s original stained-glass windows also have been maintained, although about 20 percent of them were temporarily removed for repair and refurbishing, he added.