The story and history of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is one that is intimately tied to the hopes, dreams and determination of the people within the Diocese of Syracuse to establish an enduring symbol of their faith in central New York State. For more than one hundred years, it has proclaimed to all that would look upon her of the presence of a vast and dynamic community united in faith and dedicated to fulfilling the mission of the Church.
Well over a century and a half ago, Catholics in the city of Syracuse, without a church of their own, pooled their limited resources to purchase an Episcopal church. This church, dedicated shortly thereafter as St. Mary’s, served the needs of the faithful for almost twenty years when, in 1885, through the generosity and dedication of the Catholic community, a new structure was built on the corner of Montgomery, Jefferson and East Onondaga Street.
“We are deeply aware of the many laity who, by their generous gifts, have placed in our hand the material means to beautify this house of God and gate of heaven. It is the fulfillment of an obligation to maintain, and, if possible, improve the basic structure which has been handed down to us by past generations.”
—Walter Foery, Bishop of Syracuse, 1959
Further development of St. Mary’s Church continued with the expansion of the sanctuary and on Sunday, March 13, 1904, St. Mary’s was formally designated as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
On September 25, 1910, “with a brilliant and impressive ceremony in the presence of a great concourse of people”, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, now with a completed sanctuary, was consecrated by Bishop Ludden.
The Diocese of Syracuse, after years of dedicated effort, had a spiritual home.
For the next four decades, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception served as the spiritual home of a rapidly growing diocese. Yet, the passage of time and the impact of use and the elements necessitated, in 1958, an extensive renovation of the Cathedral’s interior. Costing more than $4,000,000 in today’s dollars, the Diocese of Syracuse sought the financial support of the faithful and, through their generosity, the project was fully funded. Calling upon noted Syracuse architect James Curtin, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was reimagined with a new heating system and flooring, a renewed sanctuary, a newly painted interior and a redesigned baptistery.
In the 1980’s, following a long planning process, subtle, yet important additions were made to the Cathedral’s interior that included the relocation of the tabernacle and baptismal font.
Today, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built over the course of centuries, stands as a gift that has been passed down from one generation to the next. Standing where it does, it serves as an enduring sign and symbol of the transcendent and the eternal in the midst of the secular and temporal. As our mother Church, it is the place where our seven county Catholic community gathers to express their hopes and prayers and, for those who enter its portals, they encounter a place where God dwells, lifting them to the Almighty.