History of the Cathedral - Omaha's Landmark

The masterwork of architect Thomas Rogers Kimball,

the Cathedral was the tenth largest in the United States at the time of its construction.

Built on one of the highest points of the city, its twin towers are a familiar and beloved landmark. 

In 1959, the Cathedral was declared complete and debt-free, requirements for consecration.

On April 9 of that year, it was consecrated by Archbishop Gerald Bergan and eighty priests.

Omaha had been named an archdiocese in 1945, with James Ryan the first archbishop. 

 

 

The majesty of Saint Cecilia Cathedral has been appreciated for many decades. Firmly crowning a high ridge west of downtown Omaha, the monumental structure catches the first light of sunrise; its facade and west towers reflect the gorgeous sunset. From miles away, in all directions, its silhouette catches the eye and its towers pierce the vast prairie sky. For many years, many people, whatever their religion, have acknowledged this as Omaha's uniquely noble landmark.

We must appreciate the efforts of the pioneers who built towns and productive farms and businesses on the great prairies. We must place ourselves among the immigrants who labored so strenuously to establish families and homes in an environment so different than what they had known, an environment physically and sometimes socially hostile. We must record the efforts of many individuals, most but not all communicants of the Catholic Church in Nebraska. Some of the individuals had wealth, but not most of them. Some had power or fame, but not many. Some had amazing intelligence, talent, and ambition, but no one alone could have produced the achievement that is Saint Cecilia Cathedral; this was the achievement of the People of God.

Our Cathedral builders, whether from a century ago or in the beginning years of a new millennium, have succeeded humbly, and yet with pride, in making the great mass of stone high on an Omaha ridge, a tangible proclamation that Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is here present to all. The great towers do not intimidate, the splendid walls and gem-like windows do not boast with worldly conceit; they shine in silence, and then when the mighty bells ring out, the edifice sings: "You share in the love and the glory of God."

In the words of Psalm 84: "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts."

 

~ Thomas A. Kuhlman, Phd.D, The Beauty of Thy House, 2005 

 


The True Voice on May 12, 1905, recorded the ground breaking for Saint Cecilia's Cathedral thus -- "The work of excavating for the new cathedral at Fortieth and Burt streets began this week. A large force of men are employed on the work which will require some time yet."

Little did anyone dream in 1905 that "the work which will require some time yet" would actually take over fifty years. Little did anyone dream in 1905 that seventy-five years later, Saint Cecilia's Cathedral would become a national landmark and become one of the most outstanding cathedrals in the United States. 

We, who enjoy the beauty, the grandeur, and religious experiences in the cathedral today, can only stand in silent tribute to those who struggled for its completion. Saint Cecilia's Cathedral stands as a mighty symbol of the living faith of all people of the midwest. Its towers stretch high to the heavens in praise of God. A century of progress is written on its stones. We are truly grateful for our heritage. 

It is our purpose in this commemorative book to share with you the beauty of the cathedral as we see it; the history of the building of the cathedral as it has been told to us; and to record for posterity the year 1980, our seventy-fifth anniversary, as we lived it in the Archdiocese of Omaha.

 

~ Preface, Saint Cecilia's Cathedral, 1981

 

    Cathedral History