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St. Cecilia’s Cathedral Renovation

St. Cecilia Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Omaha. Designed in the Spanish Renaissance style by nationally renowned architect Thomas Rogers Kimball of Omaha, it ranked as one of the ten largest cathedrals in the United States upon its completion. Today, the cathedral is home to more than 850 households, leads a school of more than 320 kindergarten through eight-grade students, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1997, the Archdiocese of Omaha found the 80 year-old roof was leaking, causing staining and water problems along the interior. BVH Architects completed a study of the structure, finding the clay tile roof, underlayment, and furring all to be in need of complete replacing. The vast ceiling of the nave would also require complete restoration, as much of the ceiling was stained and acoustic tiles, installed in the 1940s, were deteriorating and falling. The restoration of the roof presented an opportunity to restore the original plaster ceiling, with a new paint and décor scheme to better represent the intentions of the original design. With modern acoustic and sound technology incorporated, the ceiling tiles added in the 1940s could now be removed.

St. Cecilia’s roof was stripped, and new underlayment, furring and clay tiles were installed. 85% of the existing tiles were reused—with the remaining tile obtained from either the original manufacturer or from locally stored tile of the same era and manufacturer. Newly designed copper gutters were installed, with new downspouts added that matched existing ornamental work. Inside, acoustic tiles were removed, and all plaster repaired and repainted. A new color scheme was devised based on historic data. Decorative painting, plaster details, and faux-mosaic ‘shields’ were all added, which represent major historic milestones in the development of the Archdiocese of Omaha. The original woodwork and bronze rails were all restored.

The scope of work done at St. Cecilia also included a new sound system featuring under-pew speakers, additional lighting to highlight the ceiling and chancel, repair and cleaning of the stone walls, and painting restoration for interior walls, chapels, and
auxiliary spaces. Heavy bronze doors welcome visitors into the amber-lit cathedral. Inside, the small columned narthex opens to a long center aisle, leading past well-worn oak pews and marble columns to the majestic white Carrera marble altar and baldachin framing the monumental “Victorious Christ” crucifix.

The nearly eighty-foot-high vaulted ceiling rains a harmony of colors upon eight magnificent Charles Connick stained glass windows, and upon alternating arched columns spanning the nave. Bronze sculpted stations of the cross ring the nave on each column. Beautiful liturgical mosaic tiles, bronze railings, tromp l’oiel paintings, and marble floors compliment the Indiana limestone walls and decorative plaster. The roof and ceiling/interior restoration was completed in November 1999, providing for celebration of the Christian Jubilee year of 2000, as planned.

Location

Omaha, NE

Year Completed

1999

Owner

Archdiocese of Omaha

Size

26,000 sq. ft.

BVH Team