Things have gotten a bit dim in and around the century-old Cathedral of St. Paul these days. A fundraising effort by the Cathedral Heritage Foundation (CHF) aims to change that.
Shedding new light on the historic and much-visited church on St. Paul’s highest point is the goal of the foundation’s sixth annual Cathedral Festival of Lights fundraiser Sept. 23.
Money raised will go to switch over all of the cathedral’s lighting to LED lights to improve illumination and conserve energy. The first phase of the project’s three phases will focus on brightening the 1.5-acre interior, which includes many dimly lit side chapels and dozens of burned out ceiling and cornice lights. Approximately 800 LED lights are needed to upgrade and replace the existing interior lighting, officials said.
“With grant funding from the CHF, we were able to get started on this process over the winter, and already the energy savings have been substantial and far outweigh the investment in LED lights,” said the Rev. John Ubel, rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul. “Plus, the new LED lights have a ‘life span’ measured in years. Once the transition has been completed, this could save us as much as 20 hours in maintenance per month and reduce our energy bills by 30 percent or more.”
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A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved July 14 the sale of two Cathedral Hill properties from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to the Cathedral Heritage Foundation and a subsidiary, 244 Dayton LLC, for $900,000.
The archdiocese announced in June its plans to sell to the foundation 244 Dayton Ave., home to the archdiocese’s Office of Communications and Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, and a vacant lot at 250 Dayton Ave.
“We appreciate the court’s favorable ruling on this transaction and we are looking forward to closing on the purchase on schedule,” the Cathedral Heritage Foundation said in a July 15 statement.
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As skaters from around the country and the world compete at the annual Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships Feb. 26-27 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, spectators can send a text to help pay for the Cathedral’s east rose window.
Cathedral staff are hoping that visitors to the event will make contributions via text message to pay for the restoration of the window, which will cost approximately $100,000. The goal for the weekend is to raise $10,000. The 26-foot window currently is in fragile condition, with pieces of stained glass close to falling out.
Red Bull Crashed Ice has agreed to help this effort by broadcasting live a Cathedral-Red Bull Crashed Ice graphic over all the jumbotron screens throughout the event — both Friday and Saturday nights. And the lights will be dimmed the first time the graphic flashes up on screen both nights.
In honor of the Second Annual Cathedral Festival of Lights, the East Rose Window will be lit over the front doors of the Cathedral of St. Paul from dusk until 10 p.m. on Sept. 28.
The public is encouraged to stop by and view the window, said Carolyn Will, spokesperson for the Cathedral.
Last year’s inaugural “Festival of Lights” event raised funds for the interior lighting in addition to other restoration projects.
This year’s “fund-a-need” will focus on adding the pontifical trumpet stop to the Great Cathedral Organs currently undergoing a much-needed restoration, Will said.
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Erosion from weather and pollution, as well as weighty braces added five decades ago, has caused the glass in all three windows to separate from their connective leading, said Al Palmer, who owns Gaytee-Palmer.
When the Cathedral called upon Gaytee-Palmer to repair three bullet-size holes in the north rose window in 2015, the craftsmen discovered that the windows were structurally unsound.
“When you just touched them, they shook,” said Palmer, 63, who encouraged Cathedral leadership to commission their restoration. “The only thing that was keeping them from falling out was that storm window.”
In early July, Gaytee-Palmer employees removed the 18-foot-diameter, south-facing window section by section. At the studio, the glass pieces are in various stages of what Palmer estimates to be an eight-week project. In that time, the pieces are cleaned, scraped of old leading, repainted as necessary, releaded and cemented — an onerous, time-consuming process because each piece is done by hand.
Restoration of the Cathedral’s north rose window is slated to begin after the south rose window is reinstalled in early September. Palmer said his company also expects to restore the east rose window at a later date.
The Cathedral Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit separate from the Cathedral parish, is fundraising the $209,000 cost for the north and south window restoration. The project will be featured at the organization’s fifth annual Cathedral Festival of Lights Sept. 25 at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown St. Paul.
“We look to the parish to identify its priorities,” said Mary Schaffner, Cathedral Heritage Foundation board chairwoman. “There is no more prominent feature other than its dome than its rose windows.”
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Fans compare pipe organs to orchestras, with settings and stops designed to allow a musician to mimic woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings and more. Cathedral of St. Paul sacred music director Lawrence Lawyer — one such fan — says you can feel their power especially in the lower pitches, when the wind through the pipes vibrates the air around your body.
A pipe organ worth the name, he suggests, should cause dress hems and pant cuffs to flutter just a bit.
But while the Cathedral of St. Paul has a splendid array of bells outside, the structure’s aging pipe organ insides had been struggling of late. Its switches and other controls were a bit out of date and worse for wear, and the pipes themselves were in need of some restoration.