A grand reopening of the Cathedral of St. Paul Museum this Sunday, Nov. 20, will feature an exhibit, “The Archbishop and the Architect,” which includes personal artifacts belonging to Archbishop John Ireland and the architect for the cathedral, Emmanuel Masqueray.
Ireland, who founded St. Thomas in 1885, and Masqueray, who designed its chapel, died around the time of its construction. The architect died in 1917 and the archbishop died the following year. The chapel’s cornerstone was laid in 1917; its first Mass was celebrated on St. Thomas Day on March 7, 1918, and it was dedicated by Archbishop Austin Dowling on May 29, 1919.
When Masqueray died, his assistant, Edwin Lundie, directed the chapel’s completion. In addition to the cathedral and St. Thomas’ chapel, Masqueray also designed the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.
Ireland and Masqueray were said to have become great friends not long after their initial meeting at the 1904 Louisiana Exposition, informally known as the St. Louis World’s Fair.
It was the vision of Masqueray's architecture for the Exposition that impressed Ireland and ultimately convinced him to hire the Frenchman to design the Cathedral of St. Paul in the beaux arts-style.
Monsignor George Ryan later described the two men in his book, Historical Sketch of the Cathedral of Saint Paul, 1904-1937: “How many hours they dreamed and planned … . These two soared on the wings of enthusiasm, and Masqueray, throwing aside halting English, broke into French until he had the archbishop equally fluent and eloquent in it. Hands were going like a Dutch windmill.”
A few of the artifacts from both the archbishop and the architect on loan for this special exhibit have never before been available to the public:
- Archbishop John Ireland’s death mask (on loan from Archdiocese Archives)
- Two of the 49 personal scrapbooks Ireland kept over his lifetime on loan from the Archives of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (Archdiocese Archives)
- Original drawings by Masqueray and one of his paintings (on loan from R.J. Seagren, the great-grandson of Frank Abrahamson, one of Masqueray’s architects)
- A collection of original photos of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition buildings designed by Masqueray. You can see the similarities in a few features of the buildings in St. Louis and the Cathedral of St. Paul. (R.J. Seagren)
- Other relics of early missionary work, including a saddle used by Father Felix Tissot at the turn of the century as he covered territory in Goodhue and Wabasha counties (Archdiocese Archives).
After the reopening, the museum will have daily open hours. Watch this website for details. The museum is located on the lower level of the cathedral and can be reached by the elevator on the left of the vestibule or the stairway on the right.
The cathedral doors are open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, call the Welcome Center, (651) 228-1766.
Both men figured prominently in the construction of the cathedral as well as the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas, which was dedicated in the spring of 1919 on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.
The public is welcome to the museum’s reopening, which will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. The museum is located in the lower level of the cathedral, 239 Selby Ave., at the corner of Summit Avenue and John Ireland Boulevard.