Design for a new cathedral in Raleigh. Great!

Is it possible that the Silly Season of church architecture is coming to an end?

I saw at CMR that His Excellency Most Rev. Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, help a presser about the construction of a new cathedral church for the diocese.  CMR has some more links and good comments about architecture.

A rendering:

Raleigh cathedral

It isn’t wierd!  It’s rather nice!  Hey!  It looks like a … a church!

There is a video of the presser here.

WDTPRS kudos to Bp. Burbidge!

Something great for your literal Brick by Brick file.

Remember that the Mystic Monks, traditional Carmelites in Wyoming are building their place.

Wyoming Carmelite Monks new monastery

Not too shabby.

When you buy Mystic Monk Coffee or Tea from these guys you help them build their monastery.  And when you use my link to buy their coffee, you help me too!

How’s your coffee supply?  Coffee could be a nice gift for the priests at your parish!

Help bring the Silly Season to an even swifter end!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, Fr. Z KUDOS, Just Too Cool, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Paul says:

    Such a ray of sunshine and hope! Thank you for this post, Father!

  2. danphunter1 says:

    The new cathedral in Raleigh’s design, at least on the outside, looks beautiful!

    Hopefully the sactuary will incorporate an communion rail and the physical ability to offer the Gregorian Rite of Mass.

    Ecce Sacerdos Magnus to His Excellency Bishop Burbidge!

  3. ipadre says:

    It looks awesome. Nice to see a new Cathedral that will present tradition of the Faith. Also like the front courtyard. It reminds me of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Prayers for Bishop Burbidge and his diocese as they commence this great undertaking.

  4. cgriffin says:

    I am very excited about the proposed new cathedral here in Raleigh. One of the Diocese’s parishes, and my home parish, St. Catherine of Siena in Wake Forest, NC, is about to break ground on a new building which will be very traditional in style with communion rails, confessionals, etc. Check out the drawings on the parish’s website:

    God Bless Bishop Burbidge!

  5. LadyMedievalist says:

    This is my home diocese and I am very excited about the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral! Bishop Burbidge is a great blessing to the Raleigh Diocese.

    cgriffin, y’all are very blessed to have Fr. Tighe as your pastor at St. Catherine. I’ve known him since his seminary days and he is a wonderful man of God

  6. Frances M says:

    The Washington, D.C., architectural firm selected is a great sign of hope; it has done other work in North Carolina with beautiful and very Catholic results.

  7. BaedaBenedictus says:

    Considering His Excellency Bishop Burbage, I am not in the LEAST bit surprised. I lived in the diocese for a few months about 5 years ago, not long after he was installed. I was a regular at Sacred Heart parish in Dunn, which (thanks to the magnificent Fr. Paul Parkerson) was a beacon of traditional liturgy in the diocese. I was there when Bishop Burbage made his first visit to the parish and sat in choir for the Solemn Mass (1962 MR). He later described it as an absolutely powerful experience and said that tears came to his eyes as he watched the people kneeling reverently at the altar rail to receive their Lord. He was touched.

    God bless the Diocese of Raleigh, for they have a most Catholic and truly pastoral shepherd.

  8. cgriffin says:

    @LadyMedievalist, indeed, Fr. Tighe is a very, very holy priest. His reverence for the Mass, the Eucharist, and The Blessed Virgin are beautiful. We are fortunate to also have recently-ordained Fr. Buckler as well, at least for the next couple of years.

    It is very exciting times for our Diocese!

  9. Brick by Brick Indeed!

    Or, Block by Block, Rebar by Rebar, or whatever you prefer – this is great news.

    (FWIW, the same firm has been retained to work on the renovation and upgrade to my parish in North Carolina as well (St. Paul the Apostle, Greensboro, Charlotte Diocese)

  10. everett says:

    Really gorgeous. Check out the .pdf here of the designs:

    You can see the clear delineation of sanctuary and nave/transept, and the altar above that, with an open communion rail. 4 confessionals in the transept, an adoration chapel, the tabernacle dead center… I can only dream that when we finally get around to building our parish church it’ll look half this good.

  11. Brad says:

    cgriffin: lucky! I opened the PDF for the plan of your new church and immediately saw:

    prominent “shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Commodious and welcoming confessionals are provided in a place of honor”.

    Nuff said.

  12. LadyMedievalist says:

    @cgriffin: I didn’t know y’all were getting Fr. Buckler as well! My goodness, there are some wonderful things happening in WF!

  13. Centristian says:

    Am I correct in imagining that small adjunct to the right of the facade to be a separate baptistry? If so, a very nice touch. The colonaded courtyard will really add a touch of magnificence to the principal entrance, and I can’t imagine that the design cues of the interior will disappoint, given the exquisite plans for the exterior.

    I wonder how the sanctuary will be arranged, however. Will the altar be erected with both forms of the Roman Rite in mind? Will the cathedra stand in the traditional place on the Gospel side of the altar, or might it stand on a dais beyond the altar? It will be interesting to see how the architect tackles such things given the fluidity of liturgical norms, at the moment. The demands of a traditional cathedral are one thing and the demands of the post-Conciliar Church are another, while the expectations of the future of the liturgy are still another.

    I’ll be fascinated to see what the architect does, therefore, with the chancel.

  14. thecrazedorganist says:

    My parish in the Diocese of Raleigh is not so lucky. We are building a multimillion dollar monstrosity, and already the grumbling of “just wait and see what happens when they start asking us for money to build the Cathedral” has begun. Here’s the main floor plan *barf*

  15. cgriffin says:

    @everett and @Brad – the plans are beautiful and I can’t wait for the building to be completed. Bishop Burbidge will be at a ground-breaking ceremony in October. Our church is about 4,000 families so we really need the space, too.

    @LadyMedievalist – Fr. Buckler started a month or two ago. He heard my confession last weekend and handled it like a pro. ;-)

    Back to the Cathedral, the $75million-$90million estimated cost is pretty big, but well worth it in the end. Our current cathedral, Sacred Heart, is the smallest in the US!

  16. JaneC says:

    The plans Everett posted are for St. Catherine of Siena parish in Wake Forest, not for the Cathedral. St. Catherine’s is very pretty too, though! The only drawings of the new Cathedral so far are these: Not much detail about the interior.

  17. APX says:

    Wow, that is so much nicer than the cathedral they’re building in Saskatoon, which seems like a waste given that it’s designed to last only 100 years, whereas many cathedrals are made to span he centuries.

    I wish more people would understand why magnificent cathedrals are the way to go rather than modern day multi-functional cathedral atrocities.

  18. tealady24 says:

    The new Gothic cathedral that the Carmelite monks in Cody WY are planning is magnificent! Glory be to God that there is true faith still left in this country!
    You should ask for a poll of most ugly churches, built since the 1970’s. I have 2 that pop right out at me, one in NYC!
    Thankfully the new catholic church which was build in Milford PA a few years back, is quite beautiful and very thoughtfully Catholic. Except for that narthex; too much wasted space.

  19. JaneC says:

    Looking at the interior picture, the cathedra is indeed on the Gospel side, slightly in front of the altar, just as it is in our present cathedral.

    It doesn’t look like the appendage on the right side of the front of this building is a baptistry, though. There are several small rooms there, some of them restrooms, and I can’t tell what else, but an eight-sided font is clearly pictured near the main entrance of the building and nowhere else.

    The altar in the drawing is centered on its platform, so I imagine it will be possible to celebrate Mass in the EF in this building. Bishop Burbidge has been supportive of the Extraordinary Form, including celebrating Confirmation in the EF, so he must be thinking about these things.

  20. everett says:

    Thanks for clarifying that I had the wrong links. Still, if this is the plan for the interior, looks promising:

  21. ghp95134 says:

    Love this image from the Mystic Monks:

    …. “Riding Fence”. I wonder if they ride high-back, hard-seat, slick-fork loop-seat saddles?


  22. Centristian says:


    Thank you for the link to the website; now I see the interior plans you referenced. Beautiful. Personally, I would have placed the altar further to the rear of the chancel instead of right up front, but that’s the way it goes today. Hardly the end of the world. On the whole, the plans are magnificent.

    I’m glad to see the cathedra placed where it ought to be, and facing the (liturgical) South (if there is such a thing), as it should be. When our last bishop renovated our 150 year old cathedral about a decade ago, he did a beautiful job correcting the “wreckovation” of the 1970s. Out went the ugly stylized gothic-ish furniture, the sweeping, carpeted semi-circular sanctuary (with its tacky aluminum thresholds), and the hideous “art”. My only beefs are that the very handsome marble altar is placed too near the front of the chancel, and that the cathedra (the 70s stylized chair was replaced by the splendid original cathedra)–although properly situated on the Gospel side–was turned outward to face the congregation.

    I like the way the architect, in this design, avoids accomodating the pretend need for the bishop and his ministers to face the congregation at all times.

  23. cgriffin says:

    Sorry for confusing things by bringing in St. Catherine’s plans into the discussion. :-) I’m just excited about both projects here in the Diocese.

  24. Athelstan says:

    That is a very promising-looking design. It seems hard to believe.

    Is that a baptistery I see I see attached to the side?

  25. Cantor says:

    I just visited Raleigh a few weeks ago.

    After work I wandered around downtown and found the current cathedral which was locked. But one of the priests saw me, took me into what he described as “the smallest diocesan cathedral in the country” ( seating ~400). We talked for a few, and then he left me to pray and asked me to lock up when I left. WOW!

  26. PostCatholic says:

    The design for the new cathedral eloquently expresses the culture, design sensibility and cutting-edge technology of Italy in the late renaissance.

    I understand that a generation ago, many “modern” churches were built in faddish architectural styles like brutalism that connected solely with other architects and art school elitists. And I think they’re ugly, too. But I do think it’s a poverty you can’t come up with materials and designs and technological achievement that express through ecclesiastic architecture the best possibilities of our present times. That’s what gothic architecture was about 800 years ago, when the soaring heights and huge windows were “futuristic”.

  27. amenamen says:

    @ PC “…cutting-edge technology of Italy in the late renaissance”

    I think indoor plumbing was invented since then.

  28. Pachomius says:

    Well, I for one am always in favour of more churches built in the Roman Basilical style! The only thing I don’t like is the lantern on top of the dome, and the lack of an altar rail or (preferably) rood screen in the floor plan that everett posted. There also doesn’t appear to be a baldacchino, which is disappointing, and the high altar looks decidedly diminished. But you can’t have everything. The floor-plan shows an interesting proposed floor pattern, which again appears to borrow heavily from the older Italian style. I hope they use mosaics for the ceiling, too.

    PostCatholic, you may have a point. But there don’t seem to be many designs forthcoming that do this. Besides, modern church designs have, for the last four hundred years or so, generally turned out pretty ugly, while the greatest triumphs have gone back to earlier tradition and built upon it.

  29. ckdexterhaven says:

    I was so happy to hear Bishop Burbidge announce this new cathedral and relieved that the plans look so holy!

    I’m also a member of St. Catherine in Wake Forest, and I concur that the new building there is going to be stunning. When I saw the plans of our new church, the first thing I looked for was if there were going to be “real” confessionals. The confession situation right now is not good. !! We have to confess at the front of the church and right before 5:00 Mass, so if you’re the last one, you are confessing in front of a packed house. I’m thankful to God for the two priests He has given us at St. Catherine’s. They’re both brick by brick kind of guys.

    Father Z, as a matter of fact, Father Buckler was just ordained in June, and he has already started saying the TLM mass every Weds evening.

  30. Random Friar says:

    @cantor: Anchorage: about 200.

    The new Cathedral and Mystic Monk Monastery look lovely. I pray they are able to buy enough land around them to keep a kind of “buffer” from suburbia and urban buzz.

  31. Trad Tom says:

    Post Catholic,
    Have you EVER submitted a post that did not contain something pessimistic, critical, or snarky? Are you a happy person? I worry about your kind.

  32. AnAmericanMother says:

    In my brief career as a ranch hand, I rode fence. I had the nicest little sorrel QH who was so very grateful that I put a French snaffle in his mouth, and a roping saddle with no swells and no seat to speak of, which didn’t bother me because I rode back home in a Beval Gold Cup (which when you get right down to it, might as well not be there at all except to keep the sweat off your jeans).
    I wasted a certain amount of time teaching the little fellow elementary dressage. The cowboys laughed until they realized that a horse who can sidepass and turn on the forehand can get you through a gate without dismounting. He also was doing his everies by the end of the summer.

  33. AnAmericanMother says:

    The fallacy there is that “modern” church architecture (oddly enough, exactly like “modern” literary criticism, art, and any number of other efforts) seeks first of all to be “novel” and “exciting” — basically, to break all connection with the past.
    The Gothic period of architecture was not a single point, and it wasn’t “novel” and “exciting” in the oh-so-boringly self-conscious way of “modern” architecture. It progressed organically over a long period of time, building on existing designs and techniques rather than abandoning them. I know more about the churches of England than the Continent, but when you examine them you can see the architectural designs unfold naturally from what came before — instead of the smash-the-past and pull it all out of our own heads stuff that is far too often perpetrated by architects today.
    Our parish church was built in 1994, and the architect wisely acknowledged the traditions of the past while building a modern structure that draws more on the Romanesque than the Gothic, with a nod to H.H. Richardson. It is not a slavish imitation of the past, but a reinterpretation. It works quite nicely – in contrast my mother in law’s horrible ‘parish in the round’ in the Diocese of Richmond VA just doesn’t function very well for Mass. Architect let his ego get in the way of the purpose for which the building was intended.

  34. I’m so glad to see bishops returning to such classic designs.

  35. PostCatholic says:

    Pachomius, four hundred years of bad ecclesial architecture would be quite a stagnation! I don’t think it’s true. Here are few ideas you could look at: Baltimore’s original cathedral (Federalist and by Latrobe); St Martin’s in the Field (Neo-Palladian, widely copied); Subotica Synagogue (gorgeous Art Nouveau–and a very sad story worth a digression to learn); Harvard Avenue Methodist (Art Deco); the Air Force Academy chapel (Expressionist Modern), Orivesi Church (Modernist, but sensitive and fitting to its surroundings and Lutheran client).

    AnAmericanMother. I think good architecture builds on success, and does not try “basically, to break all connection with the past.” Perhaps that’s how one can tell the good modern architecture from the bad? One reason I can imagine Catholics rejecting the Modernist aesthetic is that its art philosophy conflicts with your church in terms of embracing some ideals about paring to essentials only. But then again, some things are novel excess and stirring at the same time; the Sydney Opera House comes to mind as an example. I’m not suggesting that a cathedral look like the Sydney Opera House, mind you. I just feel that a large and important commission ought to be a way to embrace heritage with a sense of current time and place. Otherwise you end up with an anachronistic confection. By the way, there’s plenty of bad old gothic architecture, too. Have a look at Narbonne someday.

    TradTom, when you ask , “Have you EVER submitted a post that did not contain something pessimistic, critical, or snarky?” I think you’re doing me an injustice. I’ve offered recipes, good news, favorite books, and so on. I realize I was critical and snarky in this post because my tastes differ so strongly, but I invite you to think of a critic, in the words of Milan Kundera, as “a discoverer of discoveries.” And please don’t worry about me. I am a happy person. I have my share of troubles and plenty of humanizing foibles, but on balance I think I have a good and joyful life and I’m grateful for all I have.

  36. Pachomius says:

    PostCatholic, thank you for the suggestions. I have looked up all of them with the exception of the “Orviesi Church”, of which I could find no pictures. Having done so, I must thank you again – for proving my point so exactly.

    None of these buildings evoke the true and terrible nature of a church, that is, the gate of Heaven, and the point at which the human meets the divine, at which we encounter the face of God. They don’t say: this is Golgotha, and this is the empty tomb; this is the burning bush, and this is the still, small voice. And they don’t mark the point at which the Kingdom of Heaven bursts through the ocean of Satan’s empire.

    And in the case of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, perhaps it is arrogant to say so, but it evokes nothing numinous. It is a space like any other (and there are many similar, blandly well-proportioned ‘worship spaces’ all over London, I assure you – though not all of them are by Gibbs); it could just as well be a council chamber, or the entrance to some law courts.

    In other words: the architecture of a church must be inherently theological, and that theology must say: here, all mortal flesh keeps silence and stands with fear and trembling as the Light of Light descends, accompanied by the heavenly hosts.

    I may not be expressing this very well, so here’s a suggestion: read the Cherubic Hymns for the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and the Liturgy of St James respectively. If you don’t know, the Cherubic Hymn is sung in the eastern liturgy at the point where the gifts are brought to the altar. This is very important to understanding them. And I think they are very important to understanding liturgy in general, and the nature of what a church is (and therefore, how it should be built.)

  37. PostCatholic says:

    Well, let’s hope Subotica at least intentionally doesn’t say any of those things, because if it did, it would be very odd! And of course, most of the buildings I named are not Catholic churches and are expressing a different theology than the “gate of heaven.”

    In any event–I wish the Raleigh diocese had a better idea for explaining its theology in architecture than a pastische of European designs that predate the new world. If, as AnAmericanMother says, ecclesiastic architecture used to evolve over centuries, I don’t see much evolution in this design.

  38. AnAmericanMother says:

    Hardly fair to cite Narbonne, since it was started for political reasons and nothing but the choir was ever completed.
    I’ve nothing against good modern architecture. I grew up living next door to probably the best modern architect in Atlanta, who designed the house I grew up in. My husband and I built our first house – a tiny (850 sf) architect-designed passive solar.
    But a building has to do what it’s designed to do. Paring to essentials can be done and done well – the cathedral in Atlanta is a good example, it manages to embrace the streamlined 30s look and Gothic at the same time. But it doesn’t impair function — and whether a building is going to be used for a railway station or a cathedral, it has to function as intended. A building that is used for Holy Mass and all the actions and ceremonies connected therewith, cannot look like a Quaker meetinghouse, or a Star Wars set, for that matter. That’s paring beyond essentials.

  39. Pachomius says:

    Funny you mention the Subotica synagogue- I thought it was aesthetically hideous. Another baroque evocation of the theme Midas Sneezing Over A Wedding Cake. (I should confess, I have a particular animus against baroque ecclesial architecture.)

    And I don’t see much pastiche in the designs for the diocese of Raleigh, myself. I see, rather, a design very clearly based on the architecture of the early Roman/Byzantine basilicas. It’s even fronted by a peristyle court! I don’t see what other elements have been thrown in to make it a ‘pastiche’, and I don’t think that it follows in that tradition makes it merely derivative.

    What it does signal is that the bishop of North Carolina believes in a return to honouring the Tradition of the Church. In a church as divided as the American seems to be, this is very important, I think.

  40. PostCatholic says:

    Subotica is not baroque, it’s Art Nouveau. I agree that it’s highly ornamented, but the lines it follows are far more organic. I accept that you don’t care for it as a matter of taste.

    I also agree with you that the inclusion of a peristyle courtyard is a very nice and historically sensitive feature of the cathedral form; what I object to is the design.

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