You are here

Cathedral of the Holy Cross

-A A +A
1867–1875, Patrick C. Keely. 1400 Washington St.
  • Cathedral of the Holy Cross (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)

In 1859 Bishop John Fitzpatrick acquired the marshland site for the new Roman Catholic cathedral, the congregation's fifth location. Brooklyn architect Patrick C. Keely submitted plans in 1861 for the first of his New England cathedrals. The Gothic Revival cathedral was dedicated in 1875, on the occasion of the elevation of the Boston diocese to an archdiocese serving New England.

The cruciform building of Roxbury puddingstone trimmed with Quincy granite and sandstone, with a seating capacity of 3,500, was meant to rival European cathedrals. The dimensions are 364 feet in length and 170 feet in width at the transept. The nave is 90 feet wide; its height to the ridgepole is 120 feet. Keely designed the magnificent altar and organ case for the Hook & Hastings instrument, the largest in the United States at that time. Cast-iron pillars support the stone clerestory, allowing for thinner columns that contribute to the lightness of the interior. The ceiling and tracery are carved of three shades of oak; an immense inlaid wood cross adorns the transept ceiling.

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross contains the region's largest collection of stained glass. The Thomas and John Morgan studio, which frequently collaborated with Keely in New York, designed the vibrantly colored nave windows depicting figures of saints framed by fictive architecture. The immense transept windows with seven lights contain scenes from legends surrounding the Holy Cross, a relic of which is preserved in the vestibule.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Cathedral of the Holy Cross", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 136-137.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.