150 Boise icons: Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 30, 2013 

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The annual Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe in December is one of the many events in the Catholic calendar celebrated by St. John’s parishioners.

IDAHO STATESMAN FILE Buy Photo

By 1893, just three years after President Benjamin Harrison signed Idaho into statehood, Idaho's Catholic community had grown to approximately 7,000 parishioners.

Around that time, Father Alphonse Glorieux, bishop of the newly established Diocese of Boise, recognized the need for a cathedral in the capital city.

The diocese bought the 8th Street block where St. John's sits today. It hired Boise architects Tourtellotte and Hummel to design the cathedral in 1904.

Builders laid the cornerstone in 1906.

According to "Shaping Boise: A Selection of Boise's Landmark Buildings," published by the city's planning department, the diocese built the cathedral in sections as money became available.

Architect Charles Hummel I (grandfather of the architect Charles Hummel who still lives in Boise) was a member of Boise's Catholic community. He intended the church's imposing square towers to be gothic-style steeples.

Lack of funding cut that plan - and the towers - short. It also meant the church remains a solidly Romanesque structure - rounded arches, thick massive walls and a sense of solidity.

Builders finished the cathedral's roof and walls in 1912. They sometimes borrowed equipment from the Capitol building construction project going on at the same time nearby. Church services, according to "Shaping Boise," took place in the basement.

The construction project was large and lengthy. Church leaders dedicated the cathedral on Easter Day, 1921.

Luke McIntosh, 11, a fifth-grader at St. Joseph's Catholic School nominated St. John's as a Boise icon.

"The stained glass windows are very detailed and cool. I go to church there every Tuesday with my school where I learn about Catholicism thanks to the awesome priests Father Henry and Father Brian," Luke wrote.

His favorite window? The one featuring St. Alphonsus. It's bright and colorful, Luke said.

Builders installed the cathedral's windows in 1920, with the exception of the modern Holy Spirit window directly above the high altar. Builders installed it during a 1979 restoration.

One nice example of history coming full circle: Charles Hummel oversaw the restoration of the church his grandfather designed, continuing the family's deep ties to the building.

775 N. 8th St.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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