Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 2. Cathedral Of St. Helena. Helena, Montana.

October 2 was a busy day. After Butte, our next stop was Helena. Helena was founded July 1864 with the discovery of gold by the "Four Georgians." A group of four weary and discouraged gold prospectors, the "Georgians" stumbled down a gulch (which is now Main Street of Helena) and grimly dubbed it "Last Chance Gulch," so named because the men had decided if gold could not be found there, then they'd give up. (Only one of the men was actually from Georgia. The other three hailed from Alabama, Iowa, and England. They were named Georgians, it is speculated, not from where they came from, but because they were practicing the "Georgian method" of placer mining.) On July 14, 1864, they dug two prospect pits on Last Chance Gulch and both pits rewarded them with gold nuggets and gold dust. In 1875, Helena succeeded the other gold camps of Bannack and Virginia City as the territorial capital. By 1888, about 50 millionaires lived in Helena, more per capita than any other city in the world. In 1889, it became the state capital after a hotly contested battle between Copper Kings, William A. Clark and Marcus Daly. Clark had become a hero in Helena by campaigning for its election as the state capital instead of Anaconda, which was founded by Daly. After flipping through my AAA tour book, I decided we'd make a stop at the Cathedral of St. Helena. The site for the Cathedral was purchased in 1905 and A. O. Von Herbulis of Washington, D.C., was commissioned to be the architect, chosen because of his European training and his knowledge of European Cathedrals. Rough sketches were prepared in both Romanesque and Gothic styles and the Gothic style was passed unanimously. This Victorian Gothic Cathedral was modeled after the Votive Church of the Sacred Heart, in Vienna, Austria. Construction was begun in 1908 and the first Eucharist was performed in November 1914. The Cathedral was not completed for another 10 years. In June 1924 the Cathedral was consecrated and set aside for the exclusive worship of God.
The Cathedral of St. Helena is an outstanding example of Geometric Gothic architecture.
Twin spires rise 230 feet above.
Saints flank the doorway. I love saint-flanked doorways. St Paul. Father Damien. St. Joan of Arc. How many out there have heard of Father Damien? I admit I hadn't. I don't know who this is but I love the picture. We're talking statues carved of the purest Carrara marble. We're talking hand carved oak pews and woodwork. Genuine gold leaf decorates the sanctuary. The altars are white marble. Lighting fixtures are of hand-forged bronze with a special lacquer finish . Although the first Catholic services in the Cathedral were held in 1914, completion of the cathedral didn't come about until 1924 when the German-crafted stained glass windows and finishing ornamentation were completed and installed. The Cathedral of St. Helena is known for its opulent and impeccably artistic interior as well as for its impressive exterior. One is struck by its high, domed ceiling, hand-carved oak pews and woodwork, tall, stately pillars, striking hand-forged bronze lighting, 29 pure Carrera marble statues of historical persons from the arts, sciences, and religion, and authentic gold leaf detailing throughout. The beautifully crafted and intricate stained glass windows, however, are the most famous features of the Cathedral. Made in Munich, Germany by F. X. Zettler Co., the windows total 59 in number and were carefully crafted in Bavaria. The Zettler Company claimed that thirty seven of the most popular and renowned windows of the set, which chronicle the story from the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and continue on to various events of the early 1900's, surpassed any windows made by the firm in the first 50 years of its existence. The remaining windows in the clerestory level were installed by 1926. You know I love my stained glass:


Anonymous said...

Beautiful pics - did not know such a magnificent
cathedral was in this country. But Helena is in Montana - not Nebraska!

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thanks, Anony. I knew that. Really I did. All this traveling is doing funny stuff to my brain.

Marilyn said...

Lovely cathedral.

Thanks for visiting it for us.

Rocquie said...

Gorgeous. I'm seeing a theme in your travels--your appreciation of Cathedrals. Might I suggest, if you haven't visited before, that on your way back through our beautiful state, you visit Duke Chapel in Durham, North Carolina?

Frank Clinch said...

The statue of Father Damian at the entrance of the Cathedral commemorates Damian of Molokai, Hawai'i, a Belgian priest who ministered to the inhabitants of the leper colony there, until he too contracted and died of the disease, now known as Hansens disease. Last year, 2010, he was canonized, that is, declared to be a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. The saints on the right entrance of the Cathedral, Paul, Damian and Joan of Arc, are famous for their qualities of heart. The saints on the left side of the entrance, Augustine, Jerome and Thomas Aquinas, are known for their qualities of mind.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thank you for the information, Mr. Clinch.