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Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

athedral history


The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is considered one of three of the most historically significant buildings in Sacramento. Built at time when Sacramento was transitioning from a mining town into a capitol city, it took the kind of dedication and fortitude for which the early pioneers of California were known.

In an article from the Sacramento Daily Union, on the 24th of June 1889, it states, “The Bishop, aware of the decadence of the mining towns, gave a full representation of places, people and population. After two years his maps and letters induced the authorities in Rome to grant his petition, to cut off Sacramento from the Archdiocese (San Francisco) and make it the center and See of the new diocese of Sacramento. This has been his own individual work. The petition was not only granted with regard to the city of Sacramento, but the whole county, with Yolo, Calaveras. Amador. Mariposa, Tuolunmne, Mono, Placer and El Dorado counties, were added to the new diocese.


“On the reception of the decree from Rome, the Bishop secured the site of the Cathedral for $40,811, and at once commenced to set in motion the work of building the Cathedral. […] The Sovereign Pontiff has not only granted the Bishop the privilege of having this great territory named the Diocese of Sacramento, but also to have the new and imposing edifice dedicated to the most Blessed Sacrament.”

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

Patrick Manogue, born in County Kilkenny, Ireland, in 1831, immigrated to the United States, and earned enough from prospecting gold in California to pay his tuition to Saint Sulpice Seminary in Paris. He was ordained a priest on December 21, 1861, and returned to California. In part because of Manogue’s experience in the west and his rugged build, Bishop Eugene O'Connell of the Grass Valley Diocese, chose Father Manogue to start a ministry in the Nevada Territory. In 1880, Father Manogue was appointed as coadjutor bishop of the Grass Valley Diocese, and succeeded Bishop O’Connell upon his retirement in 1884. Bishop Manogue then petitioned the Holy See to change the diocese to Sacramento. Once Rome approved the change, the Bishop began his plans to build a cathedral by securing land close to the state capitol building, wanting people to see "Church and State, two important institutions, each pursuing the common good for society, but from different angles."

Eglise de la Trinité 

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

While living in Paris, Manogue admired the Eglise de la Trinité Church, which became the model for the new cathedral in the design by Bryan J. Klinch, an architect from San Francisco. The cornerstone was laid on June 12, 1887, and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, largest church west of the Mississippi River, was completed for dedication two years later.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

By Permission from the Center for Sacramento History

Many of the elements of the cathedral were not in place in time for the dedication on June 30, 1889. In the picture above, you can see there was no clock. The bells had not been installed yet, and artists were still painting the frescoes as people were coming in for the opening Mass.

The clock in the main tower was added in 1902, when Mrs. Mary Bethel purchased a Seth Thomas clock. She also contributed 4 of the tower bells.

Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 61, Number 103, 24 June 1889

Sacramento's New and Imposing Structure-The Finest Church on the Pacific Coast.
The announcement was made yesterday in St. Rose's Church that on Sunday next would occur the dedication of the new Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, located on the northeast corner of Eleventh and K streets. There will be nine masses in the old church on that day, commencing at 5 o'clock in the morning and ending at half-past 9, in order that all Catholics may have ample opportunity to attend to their Sabbath duty without overcrowding the Cathedral during the dedication. The dedication of this grand and imposing temple of worship will mark an epoch in the history of the Catholic Church on the Pacific coast and will be an event fraught with interest to all classes of our citizens. The work of rearing the grand edifice has progressed steadily daring the past two years and is now so nearly completed that it may be utilized for all of the practical purposes for which it is intended.

~Read Full Article including a description of the interior~

Daily Alta California, Volume 81, Number 1, 1 July 1889

Dedication of a New Church Building at Sacramento.
Sacramento, June 30th — The Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Sacrament was dedicated to-day with imposing ceremonies. Early trains from neighboring towns and cities brought large crowds of visitors to witness the services. The Cathedral is the richest and most imposing church edifice on the Pacific Coast, and has been in course of construction for over three years.

~Read Full Article~

Sanctuary Lamp

Bishop's Chair

Bishop Manogue's niece was the model for this angel

By Permission from the Center for Sacramento History

Hover over picture for details

Bishop's Chair


Traditionally, cathedrals are built with the main altar on the east end, to reflect "Jesus coming like the rising sun in the east." While the exterior of the cathedral is Italian Renaissance, the interior was fashioned after the Victorian style of the day. Much of the decor was painted in a style called trompe l'oeil, a visual illusion in art, used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object. The angels and caps painted over the stained glass windows over the altar were restored in 2005. Bishop Manogue's niece was the model for the angel on the right.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

These pictures show the original altar that remained until 1939. The altars in the side chapels are made of wood and and are also from 1889. They were slated to be replaced by marble altars, but never were. The chapel on the left was originally St. Patrick's Chapel, co-patron saint of Sacramento, and the chapel on the right was St. Joseph's Chapel. Both statues in the chapels were restored and are now on the north wall, flanking the painting of "The Sistine Madonna."

In both pictures, you can see the hanging Sanctuary Lamp. It was removed from the cathedral in the renovation of 1939 and for many years was "lost." During the 2005 Restoration, a woman in Elk Grove called to say she had the lamp, and sold it back to the cathedral for $5,000.

The current pews in the cathedral were rebuilt using the original end-caps, seen here. Some of the original pews are still in use in the balcony.

Daily Alta California, Volume 84, Number 100, 10 April 1891


Arrival of the Copy of the Sistine Madonna

at Sacramento. Sacramento, April 9th.— The beautiful painting of the Sistine Madonna, the gift of Mrs. Leland Stanford to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in this city, has arrived from Dresden, together with the frame and altar pieces. The canvas and woodwork occupied four boxes that were too large to get into a single express car, and weighed nearly four thousand pounds. They were taken to the cathedral this afternoon and unpacked under the direction of Artist W. F. Jackson. The figures in the painting are life-size and the picture is strikingly beautiful. A copy was made for Mrs. Stanford from the original of Raphael, through special grant of the Emperor of Austria, and is the work of an eminent artist of that country.

Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 88, Number 151, 15 February 1895

Chimes for the Cathedral.

Bishop Manogue is now carrying out his early determination to have the Cathedral provided with a chime of bells. There will be eight in all, and one-half the number arrived yesterday from Cincinnati, and the others will soon follow. They will be a decided acquisition to the Cathedral.

By Permission from the Center for Sacramento History

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

San Francisco Call, Volume 77, Number 80, 28 February 1895



Passing Away of a Well-Known Prelate of the Catholic Church.


Sorrow Among the "Clergy at the Sudden Death of the Churchman.

Sacramento, Feb. 27.— Right Rev. Patrick Manogue, Bishop of the Catholic diocese of Sacramento, died at 6 o'clock this morning.

Read Full Article

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 91, Number 5, 28 February 1896

Bishop Grace.

LONDON, Feb. 27. —A dispatch from Rome says that Rev. Thomas Grace, rector of the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Sacramento, Cal., has been appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, to succeed the late Right Reverend P. Manogue, D. D.

Sacramento Daily Union, Volume 93, Number 6, 27 February 1897

The Manogue Tablet.

Bishop Grace has added to the altar in the Cathedral a wall or mural of white marble, surmounted by a cross, in honor of the late Bishop Manogue. As soon as the artist completes a bust of the prelate it will be placed in the slab. The inscription on the tablet reads: “In Memory of Most Rev. Patrick Manogue, First Bishop of this Diocese and Founder of this Cathedral, His Grateful Successor Placed This Stone. Jesus, Kind Lord, Grant Him Rest. Born in Ireland, 1831; ordained in Paris, 1861; he gave his soul to God, 1895."

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

These pictures are looking north from the dome of the California State Capitol building toward the Cathedral. The steeple in the photographs is that of the Westminster Presbyterian Church at Thirteenth and K Streets, the building to its left is Christian Brother’s College at the southwest corner of Twelfth and K Streets. The picture on the left shows the area before the cathedral was built. The picture on the right is dated January 1, 1900.


Immediately behind the Cathedral is the mansard-roofed clergy residence which was built in 1889 for 25,000 dollars.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

By Permission from the Center for Sacramento History

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

By Permission from the Center for Sacramento History

San Francisco Call, Volume 90, Number 150, 28 October 1901

Statues -Blessed in Cathedral.

SACRAMENTO, Oct. 27.— Elaborate and impressive exercises attended the blessing and unveiling of new statues at the Cathedral cf the Blessed Sacrament this morning. Bishop Grace officiating'. The statues -were imported from Germany and adorn the high altar. Zangarellis mass was given by the full cathedral choir augmented by vocal soloists and a full stringed orchestra. The cathedral was crowded at the ceremonies, which were of a solemn character. The priests of the diocese resident of Sacramento assisted in the high mass.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

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Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

"There will be a treat in store for all lovers of music at the Easter Services of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament this year. The choir is already in full practice for the rendering of Haydn's beautiful Imperial Mass under the direction of Miss Lizzie M. Griffin who has been organist at the Cathedral for many years. Much of the success of this fine choir is due to her loyalty to those connected with it and the affectionate esteem in which she is held."

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament


1880s Before Cathedral was built.jpg
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament


Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

The Cathedral has always been the  spiritual center of Northern California for Catholics, but also draws tourists of all faiths. Even today, the Cathedral always appears somewhere on the list of top 10 places to see in Sacramento on TripAdvisor.

Sacramento Union, Number 25994, 19 May 1922


The installation of Bishop P. J. Keane to the Sacramento bishopric will take place at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament at 10 o'clock this morning’. Bishop Keane is being transferred from the Samaria bishopric by the pope, and is taking the place of the late Bishop Thomas Grace.

Promptly at 10 o'clock over 100 priests will march from the K street entrance of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament around to the main entrance on Eleventh street, down the center aisle of the cathedral to the altar to lake part in the installation of Bishop Keane into the Sacramento bishopric.

As the priests march to the altar Bishop Keane will take the throne for the first time. He will then sing the pontifical high mass, assisted by Assistant Priest Dean, Assistant Deacon Ryan, Reverends T. Hayes and M. Kearney, Deacon M. Lyons, Sub-Deacon .1. H. Ellis and Master of Ceremonies Rev. E. H. Murphy.

At the close of the ceremony a banquet will be held for the visiting officials.

Priests from Los Angeles, San Franciaco, Salt Lake and all the priests of the Sacramento diocese will have a part in the installation service.

Archbishop Hanna of San Francisco will preside and preach. Others officiating will be Bishop P. S. Glass of Salt Lake City and Bishop John J. Cantwell of Loa Angeles.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament Bishop Keane

Sacramento Union, Number 26047, 10 July 1922


*An earlier statement that church Officials would accept bids for the sale of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and the parish house between Eleventh and Twelfth on K Street because of the growth of the business district on K Street, was denied by officers of the church last night. The sale of the property on which the parish house and Brothers’ college stands might be considered, It was stated, but the cathedral positively would not be sold. The sale of the cathedral would mean the wrecking of one of Sacramento's oldest landmarks, it is declared.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

The original Rectory built behind the cathedral was sold and eventually razed. The rectory seen here on the north side of the cathedral was built in 1924. The tree in front of it grew nearly as tall as the spire next to it, before it was felled by strong winds in 2017.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

This 1929 view from the Senator Hotel at 1121 L Street shows the spires and apse of the Cathedral. Several men in the foreground are painting the word "Sacramento" on the roof of the Weinstock, Lubin and Company department store as a visual aid to approaching aviators. The Elks Building is in the top center, and the Masonic Temple is on the top right.


Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Sacramento 1932
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament Main Altar

1939 Main Altar

The fiftieth anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral, in 1939, provided the occasion for some long-deferred improvements. Bishop Armstrong (1929-1957) enclosed the dome, reinforcing the fragile structure with an iron infrastructure and covering it with interior decorations.

Changes also took place in the sanctuary area. A new bishop's chair was executed for the north wall. The old wooden altar was replaced by one constructed of Botticino and red Amiata marble. Behind it a six-ton block of travertine was carved into a handsome reredos (an ornamental screen covering the wall at the back of an altar), and a new crucifix was set above it, sheathed in stone. Overhead an elegant carved baldachino (an ornamental structure resembling a canopy used especially over an altar) crowned the new altar. At the center was a new tabernacle.

(From "A Brief History of The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, by Father Steven M. Avella [italics added])

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