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The Renovation & Restoration

A leak in the roof and other long deferred maintenance issues, as well as modern codes on seismic stability and fire suppression, made it necessary to do more than patchwork in the cathedral. It was decided that the cathedral was overdue for a renovation and restoration. Over the cathedral's first century, because of attempts to modernize the look of the cathedral and keep up with changes in the liturgy after the Second Vatican Council, a lot of aesthetic changes were made to the interior. So much so, that it completely lost its cohesive Victorian design. So, a restoration to the cathedral’s original motif was also required.


In an article by Anne Gonzalez from 1998, she reports, ”The Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento has embarked on an assessment of the 109-year-old cathedral at 11th and K streets. The study, due out at the end of September, will be the framework of a renovation of the church, and in particular, its distinctive 115-foot-high dome. The project might take many years of fund raising and research into a building whose history has been long buried by time, weather, previous modifications and a lack of accurate records." 


It took five years of planning and execution, $34 million, and required the parish to worship in neighboring churches for two years, but the results were stunning, and insured that the cathedral will be still standing for another century and beyond.

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Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP

General Contractor:

Harbison-Mahony-Higgins Builders, Inc

Construction Manager:

Vanir Construction Management

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West end and Vestibule

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The Altar

White marble from China and black marble from Spain make up the fifth altar installed in the cathedral. Sealed in the back of the altar is a relic of St. Toribio Romo.

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The Apostles

Part of Evergreene Studios artwork, the twelve Apostles are represented along the walls in the nave, and on both sides of the sanctuary.

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The Baptismal Font & Well

Placed at the entrance of the cathedral to represent entry into the church through baptism demonstrates the importance of this sacrament. The font is a working fountain reflecting Psalm 42, "Like the deer that yearns for flowing water, so my soul is yearning for you my God."

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Bishop Manogue Memorial

Bishop Thomas Grace (1896-1921) commissioned this memorial to the cathedral's founder, Bishop Patrick Manogue, which was originally placed near the altar and moved to the vestibule during the renovation.

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Cathedra - The Bishop's Chair

A cathedra (Latin, "chair", from Greek, καθέδρα kathédra, "seat") or bishop's throne is the seat of a bishop. It is a symbol of the bishop's teaching authority in the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion churches.

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Left: In 1808. Spanish army officer and explorer Gabriel Moraga discovers and names the Sacramento River because "Es como el sagrado sacramento (This is like the Holy Sacrament)." Right: In 1850, Father Peter Anderson founded St. Rose of Lima Church, the first church in Sacramento, after Peter Burnett, the first governor of California, and a Catholic, gave Father Anderson a lot at 7th and K Streets.

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Electric power came to Sacramento in 1895. Until then, the cathedral was illuminated by gas lights. No information on when electric chandeliers were added, but the ones hanging in the cathedral now were refurbished and revamped during the 2005 renovation, including the addition of an outer ring around the incandescent lights.

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The Confessionals

The original confessionals were built for the cathedral by Burnett and Sons. A hundred years later, during the renovation, the same company used computers to seamlessly join old sections of the confessionals with new sections, expanding their size and function.

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The Crucifix and Crown

The wood sculpted crucifix is thirteen feet tall, and the crown above it is fourteen feet wide. Together they weigh roughly 2,000 pounds, and are suspended with aircraft cables capable of carrying double the weight.

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The Dome Restored

While no pictures of the original dome were found, descriptions in newspapers helped designers recreate an inspiring dome motif. Sixteen roundels, each five feet tall, tell the story of the Eucharist, with corresponding bible verses. The 24-foot oculus at the top allows indirect light to illuminate the digital photograph meant to resemble stained glass.

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The Eucharistic Chapel

This space was where the original altars were located, until Vatican II moved the altar to the center of the assembly. This space was largely wasted until the renovation when designers added the Eucharistic Chapel surrounding the tabernacle. It is used for small Masses or events, or private meditation and prayer.

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The Martyr's Chapel (South Side)

The mural is of the Risen Christ and Martyr's of the ancient Church and from around the world. The devotional crucifix is deliberately placed for people to touch it. The wood altar here and in Mary's Chapel are from 1889 and were in storage after the 1939 redecorating. In 2005, they were reinstalled and painted to look like marble.

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Mary's Chapel (North Side)

Painted in the Byzantine style, this reredo represents all the saints of the Americas, and the visitation of our Lady of Guadalupe, the co-patron saint of Sacramento, to Saint Juan Diego. The blank space is there to remind us that any of us can become a saint.

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The Organ

The organ is the third one to grace the cathedral. The first was built by J.C. and H.S. Odell for the St. Rose of Lima church, and was installed in the cathedral ten years later. It was replaced by a Schlicker organ in 1977. That one was rebuilt and nearly doubled in size during the 2005 renovation.

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On the top of the four columns are the pendatives, which are curved triangles of vaulting formed by the intersection of a dome with its supporting arches, painted with representations of the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. On the columns, representations of the sacraments - Baptism, Holy Orders, Marriage, Confirmation, Anointing the Sick, Confession, and Communion.

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The Sanctuary Lamp

The lamp signifying Christ's presence was installed in the Cathedral in 1903 but was taken out in the renovation of 1939 and eventually disappeared from the building. During the 2005 renovation, it was bought back for $5000 from a Sacramento resident who had possession of it.

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The Sistine Madonna

A gift from benefactor Jane Stanford in 1891, it is one of two copies made of Raphael Sanzio's The Sistine Madonna, also called the Madonna di San Sisto, an altarpiece commissioned in 1512 by Pope Julius II for the church of San Sisto, Piacenza.

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Stained Glass Windows

While the windows in the transepts and in the east end are original, the windows in the nave are the forth installment, and the windows in balcony were installed around the cathedral's centennial.

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Stations of the Cross

Beginning on the north side and continuing around to the south side of the nave are the Stations of the Cross. The frames are original and the art was part of the Evergreene Studios work during the 2005 renovation.

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The Statues of the Saints

The position of each statue has changed over the years, but they are original to the cathedral, and have been restored. As well as the Blessed Mother and Sacred Heart on either side of the east end, there is also St. Patrick, St. Joseph, St. Anthony, and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

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The Tabernacle

The 20-foot high tower housing the tabernacle is made from the same marble imported from China and Spain that make up the Baptismal Font. Its design mimics other design elements of the cathedral, like the exterior dome. The tabernacle itself is from the 1930's.

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Tromp L'oeil

The style of "tricking the eye" is found throughout the cathedral, most of which was done by Evergreene Studios during the 2005 renovation. Some of it, however, is original, like the angels and caps over the main stained glass window on the east end.

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"Visitors to the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament will no doubt continue to be taken by its size, beauty and proportions. But its architecture and decor are only intended to point men and women to the deeper mysteries they symbolize. Here God "pitches His tent among" us as he gathers his people; awakens and deepens their faith through Word and Sacrament; and accompanies them through life's transitions. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament gives silent witness to the power of faith and the triumph of hope in California's capitol."

                                                              ~Father Steven M. Avella~

"The crosses on top of the Cathedral range from six to eight feet tall, and there are seven of them.

That's a lot of crosses, and a lot of gold leaf! But it's also an important statement to downtown Sacramento about life, death, and the mystery of the Eucharist. Those crosses are a reminder to all of us who pass below that God loves us and died for us; that the Christian cross gives meaning to the pains and sorrows of life despite the temptation of so many to give up; that love and beauty do win in the end despite the hate and horror we humans get ourselves into. That is the good news of the Gospel, which transcends the styles of any one era."                                                                      

~Father James Murphy~

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