Historic Cathedral in Mobile, Alabama
Founded by France, and colonized by Spain, Mobile has a long history of Catholicism. The Mobile Parish was founded in 1703, and is the oldest Parish along the Gulf Coast.The Diocese of Mobile was established in 1829, and to this day serves Catholics from West Florida to Louisiana. In 1835, the cornerstone was laid to build a church worthy of that history. In 1850, after several delays, the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was consecrated. Subsequent generations met the promise of completing the church, sometimes following the original plan, but also in response to circumstances such as the fire of 1954 that could have destroyed the whole structure.
The crowning glory of the Cathedral, and the main reason to spend time inside the magnificent structure, is the incredible number of giant stained glass windows along both sides of the nave. They were designed and built by the internationally acclaimed studios of Franz Myer of Munich, Germany, in the 1880’s.
After the 1954 fire, Bishop Thomas Joseph Toolen had the damaged stained glass windows sent to the Franz Myer workshops in Munich for repair. Here the craftsmen used the original drawings as a guide in their restoration efforts. He replaced the fire-damaged cathedra and pulpit with new ones made of mahogany. A replacement organ, built by the Wicks Organ Company, was installed and is in use today.
The Sanctuary is made of many varieties of marble, with the high altar featuring a relief marble carving of Leonardo DaVinci’s “Last Supper”.
A spiral staircase leads to the Crypt below the altar.
Past Bishops of the Diocese are entombed inside the walls of the crypt.
The original wooden cathedral was built over an old Spanish cemetery, and was eventually replaced with the current building on the same spot. The Basilica is unusual because the alter, traditionally placed at the eastern end of churches and cathedrals in the direction of the rising Sun, is on the western end of Mobile’s masterpiece.
Currently, the stained glass windows are being restored, once more, one window at a time, to make them resistant to hurricanes and potential attack by vandals. They survived The Civil War, but Mother Nature sometimes has other ideas.
Facing a full city block park called Cathedral Square, The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, with its gold domed towers and massive columns, has been the pride and joy of Mobilians of every faith for 169 years, and because on the attention to restoration and conservation, will hopefully be serving this historic Southern city for many generations to come.
Main entrance panels…