Slice of Life

They’re tearing the roof off the cathedral downtown — literally

Joe Bloss | Asst. Feature Editor

The final phase of restoring the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception will begin Monday and is expected to be completed by September.

In the Catholic faith, Easter represents new life. After Easter Sunday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse, the building itself will be rejuvenated. It’s just going to take a few months.

The cathedral begins a much-needed restoration process Monday that will cost the parish and The Diocese of Syracuse more than $10 million. The roof will be stripped, floors gutted, lighting and sound systems totally replaced. Renovations are expected to be finished by September. It is phase two of a construction process that transformed spare rectory and residential space into a parish center in a first phase that began last March and finished in January.

The building itself is more than 130 years old. Its slate roof should have only lasted 100 years. The cathedral’s rector, Monsignor Neal Quartier, said roof problems have been an issue for about as long as he’s been here.

“We had been fixing it up at $50,000 here and $50,000 there,” Quartier said.

Temporary wasn’t cutting it. So about four years ago, engineers and architects came to take a look at the building. They reported more than just the roof needed work. Water damage to the walls meant masonry and paint jobs. Faulty heating couldn’t be remedied without ripping up the tiled floors. The inside was dim, so LED lighting was needed. A walk outside exhibits a beautifully massive building from afar, but crumbled stone is apparent up close.

The work has already started. The rectory half of the complex has taken vacant living quarters and turned it into a parish center — offices, classrooms, meeting space and three smaller residences.

In the cathedral, wood has been re-stained and painting retouched. Small portions of the walls preview what the entirety will look like come September — along the outer walls surrounding stained-glass windows, off-white paint is swapped for green. On the inner walls, red arches are laced with an intricate gold design.


Joe Bloss | Asst. Feature Editor

On Monday, the real dirty work begins. They’ll cover the organ and ship the pews off to be refurbished. Inside the cathedral, there’ll be no mass, no funerals, no weddings.

All of this costs money. The parish itself, which is only about 300 active parishioners, raised $1.1 million, Quartier said. But the complex is just as much part of the parish as it is of the diocese.

“The cathedral is the most important church of the seven-county diocese of Syracuse,” Quartier said. “This is the Bishop’s church, all ordinations happen here, he calls all diocesan celebrations here.”

The Diocese of Syracuse has $13 million secured in pledges. That funding plus the money raised by the parish should cover the restoration’s costs, Quartier said. In the meantime, a gathering space that only fits about 150 people will host spring and summer masses. Overflow will watch mass simulcast on TVs throughout the parish center.

For a few months, it’s a minor sacrifice made to preserve a building that offered a first true home to the Catholics of Syracuse in 1885. Quartier said the people of the church deserve that at the least. That, and, it’s just too pretty to fall apart.

“We owe it to the city to keep the place really looking nice,” Quartier said. “It adds a great deal to the city and to Columbus Circle.”


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