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A behind-the-scenes look inside The Cathedral of the Madeleine

By Carole Mikita  |  Posted Nov 2nd, 2011 @ 10:14pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Cathedral of the Madeleine welcomes parishioners and visitors every day. It is open for anyone who is seeking peace.

We asked Monsignor Joseph Mayo, pastor of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, to take us to places where very few go. He started with the confessional, where he counsels with the faithful. It does not look like those you see in the movies.

"There is nothing scary about them, but they offer a place of conversation and great confidentiality for people in their ability to get something off their minds," Monsignor Mayo explained.

On one side, a place to kneel with a curtain to remain anonymous; on the other, chairs to speak with the monsignor or a priest face to face.

Did you know...
  • Under the leadership of the Right Reverend Lawrence Scanlan (1843 - 1915), the first bishop of Salt Lake, the construction of The Cathedral of the Madeleine was begun in the year 1900 and completed in 1909.
  • The cathedral combines a predominately Romanesque exterior with a Gothic interior.
  • The property on which the cathedral sits was purchased in 1890 for $35,000. The cost of the cathedral construction itself was $344,000.
-Information courtesy saltlakecathedral.org

The other end of the sanctuary contains the sacred burial place of the Utah Catholic community's first bishop, Lawrence Scanlon.

"He built the first church in 1875 down on 2nd East, and then built this wonderful cathedral. So this beautiful altar is his final resting place," Monsignor Mayo said.

And did you know the cathedral has a tabernacle? It holds the sacrament left over from Mass, which is then taken to the sick during the week.

Then we began our climb: first stop, the organ loft. From here you have a completely different view of the Church. Choir members have lamp stands, but with nearly 5,000 pipes, the organ itself, made in Ireland, is the star.

The next set of winding stairs took us to the ceiling of the cathedral. From here, it appears to be a much smaller church.

"After the renovation, a membrane was put over the entire ceiling — like a diaphragm, they call it — so that it is also structurally tied into the walls so that the building will hang structurally together," Monsignor Mayo explained.

Monsignor Joseph Mayo, pastor of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, took KSL News to the top of the cathedral for a birds-eye view.

The stairs got steeper as we made our way to the bell tower. The cathedral bells chime every quarter hour and on special occasions. In the last century, ringers pulled the ropes; now they are electronically controlled.

"The bigger bell is Joseph, the smaller bell is Mary," Monsignor Mayo said. "And then the other bell is Cecelia, and the other bell is Michael. Every bell has a name."

There are surprises up every staircase. As we reached the roof, we found a rather large birdhouse.

"We wanted one of those dear falcons who make their home at the Joseph Smith Building to make their home here too," Monsignor Mayo said. "So far, not so much, not so much. But they do frequent the place and scare the pigeons away. They are natural predators, you know." The view is spectacular. Look in any direction and you see the city stretched before you.

From the exterior to the sanctuary, with stained glass windows from Germany, the Cathedral of the Madeleine holds a mystique, possesses a beauty that fills worshippers and visitors with a sense of awe.

The final Eccles Organ Festival concert takes place at the Cathedral Sunday, Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. if you'd like to experience what the cathedral has to offer. A final note, though: Monsignor Mayo says there are no public tours to the roof. That was just for us.

Email: cmikita@ksl.com

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