.Plaster high in the dome of the Cathedral of St. Paul shows water damage that occurred before a leaky roof was replaced six years ago during a $32 million renovation. Cathedral officials say repairing the damage — peeling paint and plaster and corroded stonework — will cost nearly $14 million.
The leaking in the dome of the Cathedral of St. Paul may have been fixed several years ago, but officials are still dealing with its costly consequences. Water damage — peeling paint and plaster and corroded stonework — could threaten the long-term integrity of the structure, they say.
The cathedral's fundraising arm is trying to gather the nearly $14 million it will take to repair the interior — including $2.5 million to rebuild the organ.
"It's certainly serviceable," said John Mecum, architect in charge of the project. But "it's started to look a little tattered."
The grand old dame is one of the city's main landmarks and mother church for Twin Cities Catholics. It's on the National Register of Historic Places, built between 1906 and 1915 at a cost of $1.5 million.
After about 85 years of service and a number of patches, the copper roof was replaced in 2002 as part of a $32 million renovation.
At the time, officials reportedly didn't think water damage from previous leaks was extensive.
But a tour of the structure reveals damage in a number of areas:
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.
"It's a corrosive and destructive thing, not just a cosmetic," Johnson said.
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.
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