150 Boise Icons: St. Michael's Cathedral

awebb@idahostatesman.comApril 30, 2013 

1222 local church

Did you know? St. Michael’s Cathedral owns two of the most significant historical sites in Downtown Boise: the old Carnegie Library and the G.A.R. Hall just east of the cathedral.

JOE JASZEWSKI — Idaho Statesman file

The cathedral marked its first century in 2002. The Gothic-style building made of local sandstone opened its doors in 1902 to an overflow crowd of 500.

That congregation had long outgrown its original home, the small white church now known as Christ Chapel that was moved next to Bronco Stadium in the 1960s.

The history of St. Michael's is interwoven with the history of the city and Boise State.

The Episcopal church founded St. Margaret's Hall in 1892. St. Michael's Bishop Middleton Barnwell converted the school into Boise Junior College - forerunner of Boise State University - in the 1930s. Not only did Barnwell write the curriculum, he built the benches for the school's science lab, according to church historians.

Just months after the dedication of the cathedral in 1902, St. Michael's Bishop James Funsten opened St. Luke's Hospital with six beds.

The St. Michael's Women's Auxiliary supported the hospital by making bandages and dressings for surgery, furnishing patient rooms, sewing layettes for the nursery and buying lab equipment, according to a church history written by Eve Chandler.

On the lighter side, St. Michael's is also responsible for the city's long-lived Music Week tradition. The cathedral's organist Eugene Farner began the annual program in 1919.

• A new collection of paintings for the cathedral: Boise painter Rena Vandewater, a member of the St. Michael's choir, has created a series of eight paintings representing the Stations of the Cross. The paintings hung in the cathedral's nave in the weeks leading up to Easter. Stations of the Cross depict Christ's physical path to crucifixion.

St. Michael's literature describes Vandewater's interpretation as "fresh." She uses bright reds, greens, metallics and melon tones to depict Christ's final hours. The apple is both locally and biblically significant. St. Michael's sits on the site of a former apple orchard. Trees, particularly apple trees, are used as metaphors for Christ throughout the Bible.

Vandewater donated the paintings as fundraisers for the church choir's residency in the U.K. next year. Cards and sponsorships of the paintings are available.

• Public event: The cathedral hosts an event, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., First Thursday, May 2. See Vandewater's paintings, enjoy music by the cathedral choir and refreshments. 518 N. 8th St.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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