“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared December 6, 1998.
St. Mary's Cathedral (second)
• 219 18th Avenue S.W.
• Built: 1955 - 1957
• Architect: Maxwell Bates and Alfred Hodges of Calgary.
• Contractor: Bird Construction Company Ltd. (Thomas Osborne - Alberta Manager) Local contractors did most of the construction and installation of equipment, however materials and craftsmanship were imported from all over the world.
• Original cost: $1,000,000
• Architectural style: Bates "designed the exterior in a Gothic idiom tempered by modernist material and styling, he brought an international flavour to Calgary's urban landscape." The Cathedral is laid out along a St. Anthony's Cross: that is a T-shaped cross which is rather unusual. The most common layout for Western Christian churches is the Latin Cross. The exterior of the building is decorated with monogrammed stone panels and designs laid out in the brickwork.
• Construction materials: Steel frame, brick and concrete. Beige coloured brick with cast stone trimmings. Red clay tile roof from Chicago.
• Interior details: Bates designed the interior with great care and attention to detail. The oak panelling and furnishings in the sanctuary were designed by Bates. The ceiling of the Cathedral was originally composed of pyramidal acoustic tiles. Marble was imported from the quarries of Sebastian Aiella of Carrerra, Italy as were the mosaics. Representatives of the Aiella company were on hand to install the marble. Gunning and Son Bronze Works of Dublin, Ireland designed and cast the tabernacle, chalices, monstrance, candle holders and sanctuary lamps in consultation with the architects. The stained glass was imported from Franz Mayer Company of Munich, Germany. The hand carved oak pulpit, designed by the architects and supplied by the Globe Furniture Company of Waterloo, Ontario, incorporates the figures of Christ and the four major prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel and Daniel carved on the front.
• St. Mary's Cathedral is the popular name for the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the title of the parish church dedicated on December 8, 1889 which became the Cathedral Church when the Diocese of Calgary was established by Pope St. Pius on November 30, 1912.
• Fundraising for a new Cathedral began in March 1928 with the establishment of a Cathedral Building Fund and a first donation of $1.00. The intent was to erect a new church in the late 1930s but the outbreak of Second World War and the soaring costs of the post-war era delayed construction of a new Cathedral until the 1950s.
• In March 1954 Maxwell Bates and his partner Alfred Hodges were appointed architects for the project and the following year a parish Committee was formed to raise more funds.
• Demolition of the 1889 sandstone cathedral, built on property originally given to the church by the Canadian Pacific Railway, began in July 1955.
• July 21, 1955 - sod turning ceremony.
• October 30, 1955 the corner stone for the Cathedral was blessed and laid by Bishop Carroll.
• Between July 12, 1955 and December 1957, services were held in the newly constructed Parish Hall.
• The only part of the old building to be used in the new Cathedral were four bells, three of which were donated by Senator Patrick Burns. Cast by the Paccard Foundary in Anneey, France in 1903, they had a combined total weight of 3,000 pounds. The bells were originally consecrated September 20, 1904. In July 1955, they were removed and placed in storage. In 1956 the bells were raised into the belfry of the new cathedral by an elevator built up through the centre of the tower.
• Construction was completed in February 1957 and the interior finished in time for the official consecration December 11, 1957 (completely free from debt) by the Most Reverend Francis P. Carroll,Bishop of Calgary.
• Standing in a niche with a canopy and mounted over the main doors is a 16 foot statue of the Blessed Virgin in cast stone which was designed by the Calgary sculptor Luke Lindoe.
• All the lines in the church led to the Main Altar. The floor of main altar and sanctuary was terrazzo marble laid in diagonal squares of three colours. Five marble steps led up to the rose marble altar. The table was composed of a single slab, weighing one and a half tons.
• As a result of extensive renovations over the years, the original interior as designed by Bates has been significantly altered.
• For more information about the building and design of St. Mary's Cathedral visit the Local History Collection at the W.R. Castell Central Library.
“Then & Now” columns appeared weekly in the Calgary Herald between 2002 and 2005. The following article appeared August 6, 2002.
219 18th Avenue S.W., 1911
• This $18,000 sandstone structure, designed by Calgary architect Edward McCroskie, replaced a small wooden church that had served the town's Catholic community since 1885. After two years of construction, the new church was officially opened and blessed in December 1889. Following the formation of the Calgary Catholic Diocese in November 1912, St. Mary's was consecrated as a cathedral. It was demolished in 1955 for construction of a more modern structure.
• The second St. Mary's Cathedral cost $1 million to complete in 1957 and was built of steel and reinforced concrete clad in brick. Architect Maxwell Bates integrated symbolism into every aspect of his modernist-Gothic style design, importing materials and craftsmanship from all over the world. Four French cast bells, donated to the old church in 1904 by Patrick Burns, were raised into the belfry of the new cathedral in 1956. As a result of extensive renovations over the years, little of Bates's original interior design remains.