• Peeling. Some of the plaster and paint high on the ceilings and corners is peeling — in strips up to 6 feet long — leaving white splotches on the otherwise colorful mosaics.

    When lightning strikes and shakes the cathedral, a fine layer of powder covers the pews the next morning. Humidity causes a similar problem.

    "That's our ceiling coming down," said the cathedral's rector, the Very Rev. Joseph R. Johnson.

  • Deterioration. Some of the gray stone blocks show discoloration where water has leached out minerals and weakened the stone.

    "It's a corrosive and destructive thing, not just a cosmetic," Johnson said.

  • Dim lighting. About 90 percent of the lights lining the 50-foot-high cornices need replacing, and that's no small job.

    Decades ago, Johnson said, it was a perilous undertaking that required a worker to inch his way along the 12-inch cornice — his back against the wall — and slowly replace each bulb.

    Today, the scaffolding necessary to reach those heights is expensive.

  • Shifting stonework. The marble stones in the archway of St. Joseph's Chapel have shifted, and their edges are no longer flush. They present no immediate danger but are a concern, Johnson said.

    The problems are on the minds of some parishioners.

    Marianne Costanzi, an 84-year-old Summit Avenue resident who goes to the cathedral six days a week, says the damage "bothers me when I pay attention to it. Hopefully, I'm paying attention to the front altar and saying prayers, but I'm human and have eyes, and so when I look up, I see it."

    Stopping the deterioration seems to be the main priority in the project — and Mecum said air conditioning would help by keeping the humidity down.

    The church also needs to replace the boiler and work on the choir loft. And church officials are also considering making the cathedral more accessible to the handicapped.

    The building also needs more public restrooms, Johnson said. It has just two on the main floor and two on the lower level, requiring longer concert intermissions to accommodate the time it takes for visitors to get through the lines.

    And though it's not a repair, Johnson said someday he would like to prepare an observation area in the north tower and open it to the public. That would require installing a stairway or elevator.

    The church still owes $13 million on the new roof. It went into debt for that work to prevent further damage, Johnson said, but it needs to raise money for the interior renovation and ongoing maintenance.

    Last summer the archdiocese established the Cathedral Foundation to oversee the project.

    Johnson said all money raised goes to renovation — not to religious programs.

    Historically and architecturally, he said, "the cathedral is a community treasure." Pioneer Press