The Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, MN, is in my estimation a candidate for “grandest cathedral in these USA”. It is also the National Shrine of St. Paul.
One of the advantages of this cathedral is that is wasn’t badly ravaged by the liturgical vandals that swept across the Church with their jackhammers and whitewash and sentimental gewgaws. There was one casualty, however: the cathedra, the bishop’s chair, the symbol of his authority.
In the ancient Roman churches, the cathedra was placed in the center of the apse. The bishop would preach while seated in the stylized chair. Over time it was generally moved to the “Northern” wall of the sanctuary and surmounted by a canopy. In the Roman Rite, when the bishop was present at Mass or celebrant, it would also be draped in the color of the vestments. Moreover, like a classic Roman altar, it was elevated by an odd number of steps and it had a platform wide enough so that the bishop could be flanked by deacons.
Today I saw at LAJ that a priest friend of mine, the Cathedral’s penultimate rector Fr. Joseph Johnson [NB: Originally I thought that this was more recent, under the present rector Fr. Ubel], managed to restore with splendor the cathedra‘s furnishing to something very like their original form.
Back in the bad days, when the mania to downsize the grand to the stingy in the name of “simplicity” and reduce everything supernatural to the natural, the furnishings surrounding the cathedra had been removed. If memory serves, however, traces remained: there were still fastenings left in the wall.
Here is the cathedra back in the day.
This is what was done to it.
And this is what the rector achieved.
Fr. Z kudos. That was a great project.
Now it’s time to get rid of the table altar!
BTW… I linked, above, to the Cathedral’s site. They have a 360º virtual view which is pretty interesting. If you try it, make sure to check out the ambulatory behind the sanctuary.