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History of the Cathedral

Welcome to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee for 150 years.

The Cathedral is designed in an austere German style known as Zopfstil and built of Milwaukee brick. Since the laying of the cornerstone December 5, 1847, the exterior appearance has changed very little except for the present tower, which was constructed in 1893, and the expansion of the east end of the building, which was added during the rebuilding of the Cathedral after the fire that partially destroyed the church on January 29, 1935.

The Cathedral was rededicated on February 9, 2002 after a complete restoration and renewal of the interior and exterior to maintain its beauty and elegance. Work continues on the establishment of a gated courtyard, prayer garden and atrium in the commons to the north of the Cathedral. Architects and artists have acclaimed the Cathedral and its magnificent tower as one of the most admired pieces of architecture in Milwaukee and have created many fine etchings, a tribute to its beauty. The Cathedral has been designated a Milwaukee landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historical Places.

The history of the Cathedral has truly been remarkable. Here are some highlights.

  • 1847 - Bishop Henni purchases the present site and begins construction of Wisconsin's first Roman Catholic Cathedral.

  • 1848 - The territory of Wisconsin attains Statehood.

  • 1853 - The completed Cathedral is dedicated in July.

  • 1857 - Three giant bells cast in Troy, New York are installed in the original tower.

  • 1858 - The City Council adopts the tower clock as the original time piece of the City of Milwaukee.

  • 1880 - The tower is removed after a city ordinance requires that it be replaced because of deterioration.

  • 1892 - A former Milwaukee mayor contributes $10,000 to construct a new tower.

  • 1893 - A new Renaissance style tower is completed reusing the original bells.

  • 1922 - The tower clock is overhauled at the cost of $379.

  • 1923 - The Patrick Cudahy Memorial church organ and tower chimes are installed.

  • 1935 - Fire destroys the entire Cathedral except for the tower and parts of the north and south walls. The organ is a complete loss. The tower chimes fall into disuse. Ringing the tower bells is stopped.

  • 1935 - Reconstruction begins immediately.

  • 1942 - The original tower clock is restarted, using a new electrical system. A new pipe organ is installed.

  • 1943 - The restored Cathedral building is rededicated at Christmas Eve Midnight Mass.

  • 1947 - The tower is structurally rebuilt.

  • 1965 - The three original bells are equipped with an electrical system to ring automatically at regular times.

  • 1966 - The second Vatican Council brings about changes in the liturgical worship space. The Noehren organ is installed.

  • 1977 - The Cathedral is designated a Milwaukee landmark and listed in the National Register of Historical Places.

  • 1984 - The bishop's crypt area is enlarged and remodeled.

  • 1997 - The Cathedral celebrates its 150th anniversary.

  • 2001 - Cathedral closed for interior renovation, exterior cleaning.

  • 2001 - Majority of old high school removed to make way for gated garden and Cathedral Atrium.

  • 2002 - Cathedral rededicated.

Click Here to be taken to an article on the History of the Cathedral by Reverend Thomas Fait.





Copyright 2012 Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. All rights reserved.