Historic Charleston Foundation logo

images banner
images banner small

Archive Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Title 122 Broad Street (Cathedral of St. John the Baptist)
Object Type Property File
Scope & Content Constructed ca. 1890-1907; renovated 1980s, restored 1995. Patrick C. Keely and Decimus C. Barbot, architects. Although the cornerstone was laid for this stippled brownstone cathedral in 1890, it is actually the second such building to occupy the site. The Right Reverend John England was consecrated in St. Finbar's Cathedral in Cork, Ireland, and arrived to take up his duties over the diocese of the Carolinas and Georgia early in 1821. England purchased Charleston's favorite pleasure garden, the "New Vaux hall" gardens, shortly after his arrival and built a small wooden building during the planning of a larger cathedral. England did not live to see the completion by 1854 of the first large Gothic cathedral designed by the Brooklyn architect P.C. Keely, the leading architect of American Catholic churches of the mid-19th century. Tradition holds that Keely studied under the great English Gothic Revivalist A.W. Pugin, architect of the Houses of Parliament. This influence appears in the decorated Gothic cathedral Keely completed in Charleston called St. John the Baptist and St. Finbar. With a nave of 54 feet in height, side aisles of 25 feet, and a tower and spire of 200 feet, this was the largest and most elaborate of Charleston's antebellum religious buildings. With the loss of that structure in the fire of 1861 and a lack of funds due to the War Between the States, plans were developed for a nearly identical building by Keely during the episcopate of a former Confederate officer, the Right Reverend Henry B. Northrup. The cornerstone was laid in 1890 by Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore. Due to funding problems and various delays, however, the present cathedral was not dedicated until April 1907. It stands slightly larger than the former building and is known only as St. John the Baptist; the planned spire for the 100-foot tower has never been built. On the interior, 14 lancet arched Gothic windows depict the life of Christ, while the great rose window over the altar depicts the Last Supper (taken from Leonardo da Vinci) below the Baptism of Christ by John. The glazing was manufactured by the Franz Mayer Company of Munich and installed in 1907. The windows and interior plasterwork were splendidly restored in 1994-95. The front iron fence to the east, now a part of the cathedral property, is the sole remnant of the 1815 St. Andrews Society Hall, burned in 1861. Spire was added on March 8, 2010.

File contains narrative histories; newspaper articles (including 1979 DYKYC and article about spire being added); Church pamphlets describing the Cathedral and its history; "Technical Evaluations Factors" (1995) relating to renovations and restoration work done by Ruscon Construction Co. (with photos of interior); copy of photo from "Resources & Attractions of Charleston" (ca. 1898); copy of engraving of cathedral (with spire) from Harper's New Monthly Magazine (June 1857) from SC Historical Society Magazine (undated); engineering reports from Rosen and Associates and Omni (1992); building history from Architectural Guide to Charleston (by Simons & Thomas); Historical Study: Stained Glass Windows, Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist by Raguin and Associates (1994).
Subjects Historic buildings--South Carolina--Charleston
Church buildings
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Charleston, S.C.)
Search Terms Broad Street
Eighteenth-Century Expansion
Churches/Synagogues/Houses of Worship
Physical Description 1 File Folder
Related Records Show Related Records...
Object ID # BROAD.122.001