St. James marks centennial

On a sun-drenched July 25, St. James Cathedral celebrated its centennial with a procession of bishops and representatives from more than 100 western-Washington parishes. Joined by civic and ecumenical leaders, the procession made its way from the O'Dea High School gym into the cathedral. Archbishop of Seattle Alexander J. Burnett, presided at an afternoon Mass. An outdoor reception on Terry Avenue followed.

The year 1907 was noteworthy year in Seattle history: Pike Place Market and Children's Hospital both opened. And when Bishop Edward O'Dea dedicated the new cathedral on First Hill, the state's Roman Catholic center moved from Vancouver to Seattle.

In 1907, the cathedral's twin, Spanish baroque towers stood sentinel over the young city.

No more. Seattle, with its thicket of steel and glass towers, has grown up. Even so, the cathedral, at 804 Ninth Ave. continues in its role as north star for regional Catholics and its 5,000 parishioners.

Over the years St. James has served numerous roles for Catholics and non-Catholics alike as a place of worship, celebration and sanctuary. The cathedral has also been a place of music and a sacred space for public mourning - John Kennedy's assassination and the events of Sept. 11 drew the shocked and grieving through its doors.

For others, during the busy week, the empty nave is a place to kneel and rediscover the heart's private stillness.

The big snow of 1916 altered St. James's original look. On Feb. 2, after several days of a steady snowfall that shut down the city, the large dome collapsed, pouring 15 tons of the wet stuff along with considerable debris into the nave. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

It took more than a year before Mass was celebrated in the cathedral again - beneath a flat ceiling, this time.

In the mid-1990s the cathedral underwent considerable restoration and renovation. A new altar of carved Carrara marble was set closer to the pews in the cathedral's center. Above the altar, where the dome once soared, a round skylight, or oculus Dei, lets the changing play of natural light into the nave while the ancient mysteries are celebrated at the altar.

The cathedral bookstore carries a brochure, "A Short Tour of St. James Cathedral," which details the significant architectural and liturgical features of the restored cathedral.

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