Since its dedication, the twin towers of the Cathedral of Saint Peter have been a Scranton landmark. The entire exterior of the church is of red brick and is topped by a terra-cotta barrel-tile roof. The porch, including the steps and side sections, are of Indiana limestone. It extends across the entire length of the building.
Additional use of limestone is seen in the columns and frames surrounding the ve front and four side entrances, as well as an outline feature for the large stained glass window of Christ above the main doors.
The middle front doors, symbolically sealed at the Chrism Mass of 1998 and opened wide on Christmas Eve 1999 as the Church began a new Millennium of Christianity, are surmounted by a mosaic of Christ as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. The other front and side doors are also capped by mosaics or stained glass.
Entering the Cathedral
The vestibule provides an area of transition from the porch to the nave. Marble is utilized for the lower section of the wall and is also incorporated in the Main Shrine, where a full listing of all the parishes of the Diocese of Scranton is found. Beneath the chronological listing are located traditional votive candles supported by marble bases which were previously used as part of the formal communion rail in the Cathedral sanctuary.
Across the vestibule is located the Cathedral Heritage Room, where the history of the
Cathedral is traced in word and picture. In addition, one finds the names and tenures of the ten bishops who have headed the Diocese since its founding in 1853.
The spacious nave of the Cathedral measures 150 feet by 68 feet, allowing a seating capacity of nearly a thousand. The height of its vaulted ceiling is equally striking. The style of the interior is principally Roman with the marked exception of the muted columns with Corinthian capitals. It is from these deceivingly delicate cast iron columns that the arches spring forth supporting the high ceilings and transepts.
The focal point of the interior is the reproduction of Raphael’s “Transfiguration” directly above the Bishop’s Chair (cathedra). The painting presents Christ’s manifestation to His apostles James, John and Peter, the patron saint of the Cathedral Church. The original work of art is in the Vatican Museum. Additional paintings within the sanctuary are of the Assumption of Mary and the Death of Saint Joseph.
The center ceiling of the Cathedral consists of eight large panels painted in 1934 by the talented artist, Gonippo Raggi. The first seven of the panels represent the Seven Sacraments. Separating the panels are the high trusses which support the roof. The front sloping portion of the ceiling features medallions representing prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament. The latter half of the side ceiling portraits represent New Testamenfigureses, evangelists, as well as, Doctors of the Church. The remaining areas of the ceiling are embellished. The expressive use of gold leaves, emblems, friezes, ribbons, and flowers is found extensively throughout the interior.
Acting as a balance between the magnificent stained glass windows and the Stations of
the Cross are full-length portraitures of Saints Ann, Bridget, Agnes, Thomas, Christopher and Patrick, favorites of the early immigrants and miners. Additional saints are represented by marble statues of Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua in the area beneath the choir loft and of Saint Jude near the Holy Family Prayer Chapel.
Front and Center
With the completion of Vatican II in 1965, extensive renovations were initiated by Bishop McCormick. The success these of alterations is striking. It brought about a harmonious blend of proper liturgical function and artistic beauty. The entire sanctuary is of Carrara marble, a medium used in diverse ways in the Cathedral since 1884. The altar table of white marble is supported by beige tone marble. The use of white and beige is repeated in the side altar upon which the tabernacle rests, and in the marble frame surrounding the Bishop’s Chair (cathedra).
While the tabernacle is contemporary in design, the marble canopy with four columns which covers it is a design retained from the earlier days of the Cathedral. The St. Joseph side altar nearest the sacristy also dates from the early days of the Cathedral. In front of it is located a lighted ambry containing the sacred oils. On the same side of the sanctuary stands the baptismal font where the beginning of Christian life is celebrated.
Within the sanctuary, tradition has also been preserved by the retention of the marble carving of Christ’s commissioning of Saint Peter to lead the Church and by the marble representation of Saint Theresa of Lisieux.
Centralized in the sanctuary is the Bishop’s Chair. Its presence is a primary symbol
of diocesan unity as embodied in the teaching authority of the Bishop. It is from the Latin word cathedra meaning chair, that the word cathedral is derived. Above the Bishop’s Chair is the coat of arms of our current shepherd, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera.
Faith Lessons in Glass
The original windows of the church contained simple red and white diamond shaped panes. The beautiful stained glass windows now found in the Cathedral date back to the alterations begun in 1883. Much of this work can be attributed to the French architect Durang and later to the German designer Frank Mayer.
In addition to the use of stained glass in the clerestory and over the entrances, there are 15 grandiose side wall windows focusing on the life of Christ and highlighting the Blessed Virgin Mary and other saints. Of special note are the windows depicting the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity and the Last Supper. Among the saints represented in the stained glass are Saints Patrick, Margaret Mary Alacoque and Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of the original parish church.
Stations of the Cross
During renovations to the Cathedral in 1921, new Stations of the Cross were installed. Painted al fresco, they were framed in glazed tile and terra cotta. By contemporary accounts, they are still of beautiful color and texture.
In 1956, photographs of the painted stations were sent to Italy where, under the direction of the same Gonippo Raggi involved in the 1934 renovations, mosaic stations were prepared. The mosaic stations were then reinstalled in the original frames and presented to the Cathedral Parish on Pentecost Sunday 1957 as a gift from Bishop Hannan.
Music From on High
The music of the Cathedral has always been characterized by a dignity and a sense of solemnity. Nowhere has this musical expertise been more evident than in the use of the church’s organ.
Through the years from the first small melodeon to the pipe organ of 1871, to the electric-action pipe organ of 1912 (remodeled in 1934), the organ has helped render every sacred occasion into a glorious event honoring God.
At the urging of Bishop McCormick, the current organ was installed in 1979 by Casavant Freres of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, under the total direction of Gerhard Brunzema. The instrument was designed to the same specification as those organs constructed in 17th century Europe (Holland and Germany). Free standing and enclosed in a case of oak, the 2,770 pipe tracker organ contains 37 stops, 55 ranks disbursed over three manuals and a pedal board.
The twentieth anniversary of the original dedication of the instrument was celebrated in 1999.
The Passage of Time: Renovations to the Cathedral
With the approach of the Third Millennium, Bishop Timlin deemed it timely in 1991 to undertake an extensive renovation of the Cathedral so as to prepare the Cathedral for a new era of faith.
Interior work included the refurbishing and repairing of all stained glass windows, walls, pews, sanctuary furnishings and vestibule doors. With the re-carpeting of the entire body of the church and accent areas in the sanctuary, new colors were introduced which serve to highlight the natural and artistic tones of the Cathedral and to enhance the CTV television broadcast of Daily Mass and special liturgies shared each day with hundreds of thousands of households throughout northeastern Pennsylvania. In addition to a completely new sound system, the Cathedral was air-conditioned with vents cleverly installed and hidden amidst the ceiling artwork.
Exterior projects included a complete re-bricking of the entire structure, as well as cleaning and repairing of the clay tile roof. Twin aluminum domes replicating the 1883 steeples were installed and embellished with round-topped dormers and small gold leaf crosses. Brass entry doors were replaced with mahogany and glass, and faux stained-glass windows were added to the brick-over belfry openings. A complete re- landscaping of the Linden Street corner and courtyard areas that included an exterior directory, lampposts, and floodlights put the finishing touches on the outdoor appearance of the Mother Church of the Scranton Diocese, meriting its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Cathedral of Saint Peter stands proudly and magnificently poised to strengthen anew the faith of God’s People in the Diocese of Scranton and beyond.