July 26, 1896: Dedication of Sacred Heart Cathedral

On this day in Duluth in 1896, Catholics from throughout the city gathered at the brand new Sacred Heart Cathedral at 201 West Fourth Street for the building’s official dedication ceremony. The ceremony was conducted by a number of high-ranking catholic officials, including St. Paul Arch-Bishop John Ireland and Duluth dioceses bishop James McGolrick. The Duluth News Tribune commented that “Surely Duluth never before witnessed so imposing a spectacle and the immense throng that literally filled the spacious edifice was awed by the grandeur and dignity of the proceedings.” Catholics, led by a Polish band (the original Sacred Heart Church, destroyed by fire two years earlier, was primarily a Polish parish) paraded from the corner of Lake Avenue and Third Street down third to Mesaba Avenue (then called “East Piedmont Avenue”), up to Fourth, then back east to the new church. After a traditional Latin mass, dignitaries gave speeches. Bishop Ireland’s address focused on what he considered the cause of weakness among the followers of Christianity: Protestants. “Christianity cut up into numberless denominations was not Christ’s intentions,” Ireland began, “Different creeds, different politics, and too frequent warring upon one another has destroyed the grand object contemplated by Christ when he enjoined upon the apostles the necessity of establishing his church…. If all the different denominations were united, then Christianity would be strong.” Of course, American Catholics were divided themselves; Irish Catholics, who ran the church in the U.S., notoriously despised southern Italians, who reportedly weren’t invited to the dedication. Read more about Sacred Heart Cathedral here, Bishop McGolrick here, and about the time he railed against Protestants here.

A lithographic postcard of Sacred Heart Cathedral made between 1900 and 1915. (Image: Zenith City Press)

Subscribe to This Day in Duluth!