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History

A vision founded in faith…
The dream of a people fufilled
.

The site for the building of the Cathedral church was selected by Bishop John Carroll. It was purchased in 1905 through a generous contribution made by Thomas Cruse.   Mr. A. O. Von Herbulis of Washington, D.C. was commissioned to be the architect. Mr. Von Herbulis was trained abroad and was chosen because of  his extensive knowledge of the Cathedrals of Europe. Mr. Von Herbulis submitted architectual sketches in two styles, Romanesque and Gothic. When the drawings were presented, the Gothic form was chosen and approved unanimously by the Building Committee and Advisory Board.

Columbia Construction Company of New York began construction of the Cathedral in 1908, with the cornerstone laid on October 4th that year. On November 8, 1914 the Catholic community of Helena gathered to celebrate the Eucharist for the first time in the new church. The first funeral held in the Cathedral was that of Mr. Thomas Cruse, loyal friend and Cathedral benefactor on  December 26, 1914. The Cathedral was not completed for another 10 years. In June of 1924 the Cathedral was consecrated and set aside for the exclusive worship of God.

In the fall of 1935 a series of earthquakes struck the State of Montana. The Cathedral of St. Helena was not spared damage. The South tower was almost completely destroyed. The tower was reconstructed and reinforced to prevent future calamity. The reconstruction was completed by 1938.

The stained glass windows for the Cathedral were made and installed by the F.X. Zettler Firm of Munich, Bavaria. At the time of the dedication of the Cathedral forty six of the fifty nine windows had been installed. The Zettler Firm claimed that the thirty seven windows of the set that tell the story from the fall of Adam and Eve to the Church in the early years of the 20th Century, surpassed any windows made by the firm in the first 50 years of its existence. The remaining windows in the clerestory level were installed by 1926.

The interior of the Cathedral remained unchanged from its dedication until the mid 1950′s. Under the direction of  Bishop Joseph M. Gilmore, the bronze altar canopy was installed, also the grillwork behind the altar and the gilding of the interior was added. The restoration was completed in April 1959 in time for the Golden Jubilee of the Cathedral and the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Diocese of Helena.

The Cathedral was renovated in 1982-1983 under the direction of Bishop Elden F. Curtiss. This renovation was to fully address the Liturgical Reform of the Second Vatican Council. Extensive repairs to the stained glass windows were also undertaken by the late Fr. Daniel Hillen .

In 1999-2000 repairs to the interior columns were completed. The columns had been damaged in the Montana Rail Link train crash of February 1989 and its resulting explosion.

The most recent renovation of the Cathedral begin 2002 under the direction of Bishop Robert C. Morlino continues today under Bishop George Leo Thomas. Both the upper and lower levels of the Cathedral were renovated. The lower level was completely remodeled to include the two new social halls and a completely renovated kitchen. The lower level was named in honor of the First Bishop of Helena, John B. Brondel. The upper level renovation included the sanctuary, Saint Joseph’s Chapel, new baptistry, and the installation of the elevator in the North Transept. Physical plant enhancements include a new heating system, renovated Chime System, renovated and enhanced pipe organ, restoration of the Stained Glass and covering their exterior surfaces with laminated plate glass, installation of a new sound system, construction of a new confessional, the removal of the old St Helena Grade School, construction and landscaping of a new main parking lot and exterior upgrade to the Faith Formation/Office building.