The Third Cathedral

Our current version!

New Cathedral announced: 1901
Excavation begun: 1905
Depth of the foundation dig: 20 feet
Bell tower footings: 54 feet square at base
Main wall footings at ground level: 8 feet wide

Core of structure: Three-million red bricks
Substructure of roof: 100 tons of steel beams
Kinds of marble used in the cathedral: 12
Exterior stone of the cathedral: Indiana limestone

Cornerstone laid: October 6, 1907
Consecrated: April 9, 1959
Night time illumination of the Cathedral: 1988
Restoration: 1998 – 1999
Exterior niche statues: 2002
Pasi Organ: 2003
Permanent Mass altar: 2005

Bell towers height: 222 feet
Interior ceiling height: 80 feet
Length: 255 feet
Main aisle, narthex to communion railing: 130 feet
Width: 158 feet
Saint Cecilia Rose Window: 25 feet in diameter
Dimension of high altar crucifix:
corpus 7 feet, vertical beam 13 feet, cross beam 6 feet
Cubic feet of interior space: 1,584,000

Monetary contributions for completion of construction:
$2,000,000 + from 1905 - 1959
and more than 30 specifically donated items

The year 1903 was a momentous one in the history of the parish of Saint Cecilia as well as for the people of the diocese. First of all the ten-year lease for Saint Cecilia's church on Hamilton street had expired in 1898, and now there was only a verbal agreement extending the lease. The property, sold by the Taggarts in 1896 to William Stein, put the rights of the parish on shakey grounds. When difficulty arose between the Church authorities and Mr. Stein, it was decided, by mutual agreement, to move the structure to church property on fortieth street.

It was also the year of 1903 that Bishop Scannell announced that the fortieth street location would become the site of the new cathedral. According to the Bishop, it was an excellent choice, for the hill on fortieth street was one of the highest points in the city and would give the proposed cathedral a commanding position overlooking the city. The majority of the clergy and people, however, did not favor the location because they said it was "too far out". The cathedral, which was to serve all, should be available to all, not "out in the country".

Nevertheless Bishop Scannell held out for the Fortieth and Burt street site; and, within a matter of months the plans for the new cathedral were taking shape.

Thomas Rogers Kimball, a local architect, sought the contract to design the building and a cathedral building board, consisting of the Bishop, Very Rev. A.M. Colaneri, Count John A. Creighton,  and Messrs. F.A. Nash, T.J. Mahoney, Frank J. Burkley, T.C. Byrne, Francis Murphy and C.J. Smith, was formed.

Many hours were spent by the building committee and Mr. Kimball going over the detailed plans. Finally, in May 1904, the committee gave its stamp of approval. On Easter Monday, April 24, the general construction contract was awarded to William P. Deverell, and the contract for the stonework was given to the Albert Schall Company.

Buried in the local news columns of the True Voice of May 12, 1905, were these words:  "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". No headline . .  no groundbreaking ceremony . .  . It just started!

The big hole in the ground was dug by men who, with shovels, relayed the dirt upward from wooden platform to wooden platform, until a depth of twenty feet below the surface was reached. 

The footing under the towers, set fifty-four feet square at the bottom, were made of solid brick masonry. It was reported Mr. Kimball inspected every load of brick used and insisted that each brick be laid in one trowel of mortar and shoved into place after first being soaked in water. The main wall footings are eight feet wide at the ground level.

The first "monies" donated for the cathedral building were given by the parishioners of Saint Cecilia, who had harbored hopes of building a new church for themselves for several years. It was due principally to the untiring efforts and foresight of Father Harrington, Saint Cecilia's pastor, that a building fund had been initiated. Although the amount was meager to what would be needed for the cathedral, at least the project was begun.

Bishop Scannell, when he asked Catholics of the diocese for funds for construction of a cathedral wrote: "We cannot, indeed, think of producing here in Omaha anything like those great masterpieces (cathedrals of Antwerp, Cologne or Milan) . . . we can, however, I trust, build a cathedral that will be respectable." The building he envisioned was to be impressive in size, but even more lasting, the imprint of its beauty.

The True Voice, always behind the Bishop one hundred percent in this project, said on April 28, 1905: "...how many years will it take? The answer to this question will, of course, depend on the response that will be made to the appeal for funds. The building board has decided, and we think wisely, not to go into debt and to make no contract unless the money to pay for it be already on hand. This wise policy of the board means that there must be prompt and generous response on the part of the public to the appeal for funds, unless the work is to be suffered to drag on indefinitely . . . Since the Cathedral belongs to the whole diocese, the diocese should be interested in its erection and that none should consider themselves exempt from the obligation of contributing on the ground that they could not give large sums."

Tour the Interior

Cathedral Highlights


1. Cathedral Plaza / Front Steps
2. Narthex (the space immediately inside the doors)
3. Saint Joseph with the boy Jesus shrine (honoring labor)
4. Saints James the Apostle and Joseph windows
(Patron Saints of Bishops Ryan and Rummel)
5. St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Mother, and child Mary alcove
6. Nash Chapel (gift of Catherine Barbeau Nash)
(crypt below has 38 vaults — 20 of which are filled)
7. Mary and Joseph statues (Polasek sculptures)
8. Ossuary (in narthex niche) Blessed Felix De Andreis Mural
9. Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat window
10. Saints Alphonsus Liguori (left)and Ignatius Loyola window (right)
South Clerestory singing windows (back - front: Veni Sancti Spiritus;
Pange Lingua; Dies Irae-Dies Illa; Te Deum) and 5 history medallions
11. Antiphonal Choir riser
12. Infant of Prague statue
Saint Frances Cabrini mural (above sacristy doorway)
13. Saint Clare window (ambulatory level)
14-18. Spanish Colonial Collection and 9 Rosary windows
19. Saint Jude shrine (north ambulatory at the gate)
20. Jesuit North American Martyrs mural (above ambulatory)
Our Lady of Grace statue (facing nave on cathedra side)
21. Saint Philippine Duchesne mural (above north entry grille)
22. Saints Kateri Tekakwitha (above doors to Nebraska Chapel)
and Junipero Serra (opposite wall murals and Augustine (Polasek)
23. Our Lady of Nebraska Chapel, Virgin of the Corn (Polasek sculpture)
and three stained glass windows from the 16th century Cathedral
of Pamplona windows.
24. Baptistry, stained glass windows and sculpture atop baptismal font
25. Saints Benedict (left) and Augustine (right) windows
North Clerestory singing windows (front to back: Magnificat,
Gloria in Excelsis Deo and Stabat Mater)
26. Victimae Paschali and 5 history medallions
27. Saint Euphrasia Pelletier window (ambulatory level)
28. Saints Francis of Assisi (left) and Columban(right) windows
29. Round room with original brick walls
30. Saints Richard and Jeremiah windows (Patron Saints of Bishops
Scannell and Harty)
31. Christ the King Shrine (“Your Kingdom Come”)
32. West Gallery, Saint Cecilia Rose window
Cathedral Organ by Martin Pasi, Opus 14
33. Bronze Stations of the Cross (Polasek sculpture)
34. Bronze/cararra marble altar rail
35. High Altar Crucifix (Polasek) and wood paneling with statues of
the apostles (Polasek - 5 and William Hoppe - 6)
36. Cathedra (Chair)
37. Pulpit with Saints Peter and Paul and Four Doctors of the Church:
Saints Jerome, Gregory the Great, Ambrose, Augustine (Polasek)