Norwich celebrates newly restored Cathedral of St. Patrick

Priests of the Norwich diocese pass through the sanctuary to their seats during the rededication Mass Saturday for the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich and the 60th anniversary of the diocese.
Buy Photo Dana Jensen/The Day Priests of the Norwich diocese pass through the sanctuary to their seats during the rededication Mass Saturday for the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich and the 60th anniversary of the diocese.

Norwich - A colorful procession of knights, deacons, priests and two bishops began the Mass of Thanksgiving and St. Patrick Cathedral rededication on Saturday.

More than 900 people attended the celebration of the restoration of the 1879 church. The ceremony also marked the "Year of Faith," the 60th anniversary of the diocese of Norwich, and the 10th anniversary of Bishop of Norwich, the Most Rev. Michael R. Cote.

The restoration of the church, originally designed by Irish-American architect James Murphy, began in 2011 and was paid for, nearly in full, by an anonymous donor.

"I find dedicating the chapel … dedicating the new altar or today's prayerful rededication of this new cathedral awesome experiences," Cote said. "I say this because the church is truly holy ground. … A church, an altar is like a window through which the world of God comes out to us."

Most recently, a canvas of the crucifixion was added at the front of the church behind the pulpit.

John Canning, principal of John Canning Studios, which managed parts of the restoration, said he particularly liked how the crucifixion mural was created to resemble the stained glass in the cathedral. The canvases were painted with aniline dyes that, with the proper lighting, make it appear as though light is coming from behind the painting, he said.

What matters most, however, is how the designs in the cathedral work together and that the architecture serves the cathedral, the ritual of Mass and the parishioners, he added.

"I think it is absolutely gorgeous," Bev Onsager of Bozrah said. "I am a parishioner here, and every day I just come here and look at it in awe."

It used to be monochromatic, said her husband, John Onsager. Now it is full of color.

The Gothic-style ceiling is light blue, and its ribs, or arches, are beige. Where the ribs crisscross are "bosses" with iconic Catholic symbols.

Around the lower part of the cathedral's ceiling are 20 murals of Jesus' life.

Below the sky-like ceiling, the upper third of the walls is painted beige and the middle third, light-forest green. Below that are traditional motifs or stenciling.

The light-forest green portion of the wall also has framed Stations of the Cross, which are small sculptures placed in alcoves of the walls. Repainting the small sculptures is the main project left to finish, Canning said.

Freshly refinished pews reveal two different types of wood, one dark and one light. Newly designed maroon columns rise up to the ceiling on either side of the church, with angels above them. Two large stained-glass windows let light into the church; one set depicts the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, while the other shows St. Patrick converting the Irish to Christianity.

The new white and forest green marble floor, the cleaned-stained glass and modern skylights all illuminate the cathedral.

Canning said the hardest part of the project was going through archived photographs, physically studying the cathedral's historic architecture to determine the original colors and motifs in order to incorporate them into the new decorations.

Besides the newly painted crucifixion, the cathedral has a new tabernacle designed by Spain-based Granda Liturgical Arts. It was a gift from the bishops and priests of the diocese, diocese spokesman Michael Strammiello said.

"You can't help but be inspired when you see this (cathedral)," Strammiello said.

In addition to rededicating the church, the parishioners celebrated Cote's 10-year anniversary as Norwich's bishop. They praised him for his faith, hope, love and charity.

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Diocese of Norwich, parishioners who had served the diocese for numerous years were given the Ecclesia et Pontifice award or the "Cross of Honour."

Throughout the service, Cote thanked those involved in the restoration and renovation. He said a special thanks to the anonymous donor, for whom he said he prayed daily, and for all the other parishioners who pitched in financially for final projects.

After the service, Cote stopped by Canning to congratulate him.

"God love you," Cote said.

j.somers@theday.com

Bishop Michael R. Cote, right, and Bishop Emeritus Daniel P. Reilly of the Diocese of Worchester, Mass., pray during the  rededication of the Cathedral of St. Patrick Saturday in Norwich.
Buy Photo Dana Jensen/The Day Bishop Michael R. Cote, right, and Bishop Emeritus Daniel P. Reilly of the Diocese of Worchester, Mass., pray during the rededication of the Cathedral of St. Patrick Saturday in Norwich.
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