Modeled after the famous Votive Church of the Sacred Heart in Vienna, Austria, the Cathedral of St. Helena was originally constructed during the turn of the century and Bishop John Carroll's episcopate. It is a perfect example of classic Geometric Neo-Gothic architecture. As such, it is revered by residents of Helena as a touch of the grandeur of Austrian past right there in the present in Montana. Its distinctive trademark double spires rise 230 feet above the level of the street and can clearly be seen throughout the local community, and the cathedral is still an operating place of Catholic worship. All visitors are welcome to visit the cathedral or attend services.
The first Catholic services were held at the Cathedral of St. Helena in 1914 when the cathedral itself was first opened. However, it's important to note that the cathedral was not a finished building at that point in time. Completion of the cathedral didn't come about until 1924 when the German-crafted stained glass windows and finishing ornamentation were completed and installed. At one point, the cathedral also included a Catholic school which was operational from 1909 to 1969, but the school itself was recently demolished.
The cathedral was severely damaged in the earthquake of 1935, but luckily was not left beyond repair. The fundamental structure was still very much intact, enabling the citizens of Helena to fully reconstruct it, preserving its historic significance and the beauty of its impressive classical architecture. At the time of its reconstruction, it was also equipped with earthquake-proofing reinforcement to prevent damage as the result of future quakes.
The Cathedral of St. Helena is known as much for its opulent and impeccably artistic interior as it is for its impressive exterior. Visitors are instantly struck by its high, domed ceiling; hand-carved oak pews and woodwork; tall, stately pillars, and striking light fixtures crafted of hand-forged bronze work. The interior of the cathedral is further beautified by the presence of many statues hand-carved from pure Carrera marble and authentic gold leaf detailing throughout.
However, one of the most famous features of the cathedral is its collection of beautifully crafted and intricate stained glass windows. They total 59 in number and were carefully created in Bavaria. Thirty-seven of the most popular and renowned chronicle the story of the church beginning with the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and continuing on through to various events of the early 1900's.
The Cathedral of St. Helena is to this day lovingly maintained by its dedicated staff. This includes meticulous care, cleaning, and maintenance of the cathedral's famous stained glass windows the better to preserve their incredible beauty. The cathedral itself also is still re-renovated from time to time. The most recent round of renovations (taking place over 2002 and 2003) saw the addition of a gift shop, a baptistery on the ground level, and a social hall on its upper level, as well as restoration of the sanctuary.
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