Friday, June 23, 2006

New Stairs to the Choir Loft

In order to expand the bathroom in the northern vestibule at the front of the Cathedral, workers had to reroute the stairs coming down from the choir loft. Earlier this week, workers removed the old stairs and the fixtures in the old bathroom (See previous post.)

The new stairs are complete and the walls have been framed. There is plenty of space left over for the new bathroom.

The vestibule will remain closed until the project is complete, but check back to this site often to see the updated photos.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The restroom at the back of the Cathedral is no more!

The plans to install a handicapped-accessible restroom are moving forward. The Usher's Closet, the stairs coming down from the choir loft, the fixtures in the old restroom, and the drinking fountain have been removed.

The stairs will be re-routed to make room for a larger restroom that is wheelchair friendly. The old restroom was up one step. Parishioners who use the new restroom will walk or roll directly into the restroom.

The old Chair Lift is gone

Workers began removing the old, broken chair lift that moved parishioners with disabilities up and down the stairwells. They have to take both chairs off their rails, then unbolt the rails themselves from the stairs.

Most of the parts have arrived. I will post photos of the installation when it begins.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Before and After Photos of the "Attic"

The first priority in the renovation is ensuring the structural integrity of the Cathedral building.

All is well. The job is complete. The 93 -year-old wooden structural beams that had begun to rot have been replaced. The photo on the right shows a major beam that had suffered water damage. The end of the beam is nearly gone. It had fallen six inches.

The same beam is shown after the repairs in the photo to the left. The beam is now firmly anchored to the wall. The end of the wooden beam is cradled in the orange metal piece which is bolted into the brick.

The photo on the right is another "Before" photo. This photo was taken in the space above the nave, right above the main aisle in the church. The roof rafters meet at the apex of the roof, but they have started to separate.

Here is the "After" photo of the roof rafters. The small wooden triangles ensure that the roof will retain its shape and its integrity for another century.

The final set of "before and after" photos are of the catwalk, the long walkway that connects the area above the choir loft to the area above the high altar. The catwalk runs the length of the Cathedral, eighty feet above the pews. The photo to the right shows the crude original catwalk.

The rebuilt catwalk is much safer and better lighted. In the future, workers will move materials up to the main spire. The catwalk is the only way to move from the ground to the main spire.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

First Things First

Perhaps my favorite part of my job is giving tours of the Cathedral. All year long, I schedule group tours of Holy Family. I've given tours to groups of Jews, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Luterans, grade schools, high schools, local colleges, pilgrims from Oklahoma City and elsewhere, and visitors from other countries. I used to keep track of my tours, but I stopped a few years ago when I had counted 700 tours.

The Gondola: One of most frequently asked questions is "What is that big dome up there?" The gondola was suspended from the ceiling vaults at the center of the cruciform. The gondola contained many speakers from a previous sound system and is covered with acoustically transparent cloth. The gondola was known as "the coffee filter" by many parishioners.

One of the first goals of the renovation was removing the coffee filter, er, gondola. When it was installed, it was hoisted by a winch up to the ceiling. Removal was fairly quick. However, there was a hole in the vaults through which the speakers were hung. We did not want to have a large hole in the middle of the vault, so we asked the workers to cover the hole with the bottom of the gondola. It's not perfect right now, but the ceiling will be restored to its original beauty in the renovation so that everyone will clearly see the eight sided star, a symbol of the eight days of Creation: the seven days in Genesis plus the day of the Resurrection.

The Tabernacle: The Eucharist is the center of our Faith. All Catholics have a great respect for Our Lord's Presence in the Blessed Sacrament. From the 1974 renovation until just recently, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in the tabernacle in the Blessed Virgin's altar on the left side of the apse.

At the Easter Vigil Mass in 2006 - after an incredibly large number of people were Baptised, Received into the Faith, Confirmed, and received their First Communion - Monsignor Gier returned the Eucharist to the tabernacle in the high altar. Before the Vigil Mass, the Bishop's cathedra (his chair) was moved to a prominent place on the side so that it would not be blocking the tabernacle. We moved the sanctuary lamp from the altar of the Blessed Virgin to the middle of the apse so that it would be near the tabernacle.

The parishioners of Holy Family have responded with great praise for this decision. The Cathedral now looks much more like it did at its dedication in 1914.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Original Construction (1912-1914)

In 1912, Reverend John Gerhard Heiring and his bishop, Most Reverend Theophile Meerschaert, broke ground on Eighth Street on Boulder Avenue with the dream of constructing a beautiful church - a sign of the permanent Catholic presence in Tulsa.

Upon its completion in 1914, Holy Family Church was the tallest building in Tulsa. Although the new skyscrapers are far larger than Holy Family, the church remains one of the "must see" landmarks in downtown Tulsa. Monsignor Heiring called the church a "Tri-Spired Gem," referring to the three soaring spires.

By 1931, the Catholic population in Oklahoma had grown to a point where the solitary Bishop of Oklahoma had to travel between Oklahoma City and Tulsa to celebrate major Masses. Holy Family in Tulsa and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Oklahoma City became "co-cathedrals."

In 1947, Holy Family's original palette of pale greens, blues, and yellows needed to be repainted due to three decades of soot from candles and incense. The priests chose an ornate series of stencil patterns.

In 1973, the Diocese of Oklahoma was split into two. The newly created Archdiocese of Oklahoma City consisted of the western parts of Oklahoma. The Diocese of Tulsa comprised eastern Oklahoma and had as its cathedral, Holy Family. The following year, the Cathedral was again renovated to accomodate the changes following the Second Vatican Council and the changes due to becoming a Cathedral. The ornate stencils were replaced with a more serene, monochromatic color scheme.

As Holy Family Cathedral nears its centennial in 2014, Reverend Monsignor Gregory A. Gier and the Cathedral's Building Committee is working to ensure that Holy Family retains all of its beauty for another hundred years.