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Architecture

Architect, E. A. Cousin of Holland provided the architectural plans for the Cathedral. Based on Roman and Byzantine elements, the Cathedral’s features are typical of German Romanesque architecture, a style popular in the 9th-12th centuries and one that predates the Gothic style. German Romanesque is char-acterized exteriorly by symmetry, round arches and tall towers with octagonal turrets.

Oil paintings of the twelve apostles and Christ the King decorate the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the interior nave. The triforium, here a faux second floor gallery, rises above the arcade. It is supported by pillars and capped with decorative Corinthian capitals. The clerestory sits above the triforium and features rows of windows in trinitarium form. These provide direct lighting to the ceiling of the cathedral.

The cathedral ceiling is 53 ft high from the floor in the nave. From wall to wall, the church stretches 68 ft wide. The church seats approximately 600 people.

Cathedral Bell Tower

The campanile, or bell tower, is octagonal. The oldest and largest bell was cast in 1912 by McShane Bell Foundry in Baltimore, Maryland. It sounds the note E-flat. This bell always rings alone and calls worshippers to prayer for masses.
In 2001 four in-chime bells were donated to the Cathedral by the LeBouef family of Lafayette, the largest weighing 850 pounds. These bells swing and are used for the Westminster Peal every hour. These bells were cast at the Meeks, Watson & Company Bell Foundry in Georgetown, Ohio.

In 2010 10 new stationary bells, cast by the Royal Eijsbouts Bell Foundry in Asten, Netherlands, were donated to the Cathedral by the Luquette family. These bells do not swing and are suspended from a steel beam in the tower. These bells play tunes before the weekend masses. They are also used to play ringing peals for special occasions. The bells are connected to a programmable electronic Chimemaster system and accompanying keyboard that can play an unlimited number of hymns.

The Cathedral Bells ring the Angelus every day at 6 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m. This is an ancient custom used to remind Christians of the mystery of the Incarnation.

Vestibule

The stained-glass window at the entrance to the church depicts the blessed apostle, Saint John the Evangelist. The five images above the apostle are Christian imagery: IHC, a Christogram representing the first three Greek letters of Jesus’ name; bees, a popular Christian medieval symbol and also a symbol of the work of the Church; the Chi Rho, one of the earliest Christo-grams, signifying Christ; IOH, a monogram to represent the Gospel of John; a fishing boat to represent John the Evangelist’s profession before becoming a disciple of Christ.

The coat of arms of bishops are inscribed on the transom over the inner door of the vestibule.

Plaques on either side of the vestibule door list the past bishops of the Diocese of Lafayette and pastors that have served the Cathedral. These marble plaques were installed in celebration of the 175th anniversary of the church parish.

A small statue of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, stands in honor of Msgr. Glen Provost, once pastor of the Cathedral for 12 years and appointed bishop of the Diocese of Lake Charles in 2007.

Organ

The bespoke organ was installed in 1985 as part of a major interior renovation of the Cathedral. The organ was built by Casavant Frères, Limitée, of Hyacin-the, Quebec, the oldest organ builder in North America. It was designed by Louis Coignet, once the organ restorer and tuner for all the great cathedral organs of Paris. The elegant voicing is that of a real French cathedral organ. Depending on the humidity of the weather or how many people are seated in the Cathedral 4 seconds of reverberation are possible.

The organ has three manuals made of bone and ivory and pedals. There are 54 ranks with a total of 3,038 pipes. The pipes range in size from 16 feet to an eighth of an inch. The organ case also contains the 16-foot montre and Spanish styled trompette en chamade, also known as the trompette de fete.

Windows

The stained-glass windows were manufactured by the Emil Frei Art Glass Company in Munich, Bavaria. Although the design began in 1915, the stained-glass windows were finally installed in the Cathedral in 1926. A document dated 1925 estimates the cost of all the windows of the Cathedral to total $10,000. Father Bede Maler, O.S.B., a Benedictine priest, directed the art of the win-dows. The windows portray the life of apostle Saint John the Evangelist, the patron of the Cathedral, beginning with his first call to follow Jesus until his writing of the Book of Revelation. John, also called the Beloved Disciple, was a fisherman and the youngest disciple. In most windows he is depicted without a beard because of his youthfulness. He can be identified in each window wearing red cloak.

The windows lining the wall to the right of the entrance of the cathedral depict St. John witnessing Jesus’ early and later ministry leading up to the Passover such as the wedding feast at Cana, and raising Lazarus from the dead.

Above the sanctuary, St. John is shown with Jesus at the Last Supper, accompanying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, taking the Blessed Mother into his home after the crucifixion, and discovering the empty tomb of Christ.

The windows on the left side of the Cathedral depict St. John and the apostles witnessing the risen Christ, being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, preaching the Gospel and imparting the Gift of the Holy Spirit. The final windows elaborate the Book of Revelation and of 1 John.

The round windows over the shrines in the center of the nave are representations of Christ the Good Shepherd. These windows symbolize the Sacrament of Reconciliation and God’s infinite mercy for sinners.

Confessionals were once located at each of these points in the Church prior to a renovation in 1985. Confessionals are now located in the rear of the Cathedral.

The round window above the front right entrance to the church depicts the beginning of Christ’s public ministry and his baptism. The round window above the front left entrance of the Cathedral pictures Christ handing over the keys of the kingdom to Peter ensuring that his ministry would continue in the world through His church.

Baptistry

The baptistry is at the right of the main altar. The bronze arched repositories are decorated with olive branch etchings. They sit on the side marble altar to the rear of the baptistry. The repositories house the oils, Oil of Catechumens, The Oil of the Infirm, and Holy Chrism that are consecrated during the chrism mass on Holy Thursday. These oils are used for the Sacraments of Anointing of the Sick, Baptisms, and Confirmation throughout the liturgical year.

A bronze sculpture of the Holy Spirit hangs above the side altar.

The “J” inlay on the front of the side altar represents St. Joseph, to whom the altar is consecrated to.

The marble baptismal font is circular shaped to symbolize the womb of the Mother Church and that all Christians are reborn through the Sacrament of Baptism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritu-alis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.” (CCC 1213).

Remnants of the pre-Vatican II Cathedral baldacchino that once decorated the Sanctuary adorn the baptistry.

Sanctuary

Pulpit

The marble pulpit is decorated with stone medallions that symbolize the four writers of the Gospels, the Four Evangelists: Mathew, a human head; Luke, the head of an ox; Mark, the head of a lion; and John, the head of an eagle. These symbols were first taken from the prophet Ezekiel (1:1-21) and later echoed in the Book of Revelation (4:6-8).

Main Altar

The main altar is made of imported Italian marble. It was gifted to the Cathedral by the late Bishop Jules B. Jeanmard, the first Bishop of Lafayette when the Cathedral was beautified during the 1930s. The medallions symbolizing the Four Evangelists also decorate the main altar. The blue and white mosaics on the front piece of the altar are of wheat and grapes, representatives of the bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Another Eucharistic symbol, a mother pelican feeding her young from her flesh, is on the center of the main altar. The Louisiana state seal and flag also feature this same symbol.

Cathedra

The bishop’s chair, or cathedra, sits in the rear of sanctuary. It is decorated with columns to match the Romanesque interior and exterior of the church, a miter, and corinthian capitals. A marble mosaic of the bishop’s coat of arms is installed in the top center of the chair. This chair is used by the presiding bishop when he celebrates Mass. The English word Cathedral is derived from the Latin term cathedra: a cathedral is the Bishop’s church and the seat of the Diocese.

Medallions

The round medallions at the top of the marble panels behind the Sanctuary de-pict various Christian symbols and sacramentals. From left to right: two rings to symbolize matrimony; holy oil urn-holy oils; keys-penance; fish-Christ; chalice-Eucharist; dove-Holy Spirit; grapes-wine; IHS-Jesus; wheat-bread; stole-priesthood; censer-incense; baptistry-baptism.

Eagle Lectern

Eagle lecterns, popular in Anglican Churches, predate the Reformation and were used in several medieval English Catholic Churches. This antique eagle lectern is carved from English oak. The eagle further represents St. John the Evangelist.

Doctors of the Church

Oil paintings on canvas hang on either side of the sanctuary. They depict the Four Fathers, foundational theologians and teachers, of the Church. These four figures are: St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430), defender of the faith and influencer of Western Christianity; St. Gregory I, Pope (540-604), who in-stituted the Gregorian Mission to convert Anglo Saxons to Christianity and perhaps originated the plainchant, also known as Gregorian chant; St. Je-rome (342-420), translator of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek to Latin; St. Ambrose (340-397), once Bishop of Milan and defender of the Church against Arianism that denied the divinity of Christ and converted St. Augustine.

Blessed Sacrament Altar

Pieces from the old baldacchino decorate the Blessed Sacrament altar as well. The tabernacle, where the ciborium is held, sits on top of the altar and houses the Eucharistic Presence. The altar is one of the most sacred places in the Cathedral. The inlay on this altar represents Mary and echoes the right side altar that is consecrated to Joseph. A wooden crucifix hangs above the altar and is flanked by an alpha and omega, Greek alphabet letters that represent the beginning and the end of time, ancient symbols for Christ.

Bishops Tombs

The bishops that have served the Diocese since 1918 are entombed in the underground crypts below the Cathedral. Each tomb is inscribed with their coat of arms and respective mottos. Bishop Jules Jeanmard, the first bishop of Lafayette, adopted for his motto, Sub tuum praesidium (under thy protection). This motto is taken from an ancient prayer to Our Lady. Bishop Jeanmard had a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. Bishop Jeanmard’s coat of arms features the arms of the diocese on the left half of the shield. The right half of the shield features the bishop’s arms. The hand and forearm symbolize His Excellency’s name, Benjamin, son of my right hand. The lily represents Our Lady of the Assumption, patron saint of the Acadians. The demi eagle signifies St. John the Evangelist.

Bishop Maurice Schexnayder’s motto is Ad te clamamus (to thee do we cry) and is similarly taken from the prayer Hail Holy Queen. Bishop Schexnayder’s coat of arms also incorporates the diocesan crest on the left side. The right side emphasizes his French ancestry and contains the symbol of his patron, St. Maurice, the Roman imperial eagle. In heraldry, the wavy line indicates water and here it symbolizes the Mississippi River. The fleur-de-lis represents the Bishop’s French ancestry.

The external ornaments of these two crests is composed of the pontifical hat with six tassels on each side, disposed in three rows, along with crozier, and mitre.

Bishop Gerard Frey adopted the motto, Serviam (I serve). His coat of arms likewise includes the diocesan crest on the left side. On the right the clasped hands symbolize the surname Frey which means “freedom”. The clasped hands signify the brotherhood of men in the fatherhood of God. They further represent the bishops desire to serve. On the lower portion of the crest, the rose represents the maiden name (DeRose) of the Bishop’s mother. The six-pointed star is derived from the coat of arms of St. Pius X who established the Confra-ternity of Christian Doctrine which Bishop Frey promoted in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The Frey family crest from the region of Alsace bears a golden sun. The external ornaments of these three crests is composed of the pontifical hat with six tassels on each side, disposed in three rows.

Bishop Edward O’Donnell is entombed near the front right entrance of the church in front of the side altar, or baptistry. His motto is To Bind All Together. The right side of the Bishop’s crest incorporates his own coat of arms. The circular symbol represents the Eucharist. Female and male figures, the Christian community, are touching heads and radiate outward from the center. The community is fed by the Body and Blood of Christ, and itself becomes the Mystical Body of Christ. The three blue fleurs-de-Lis are taken from the arms of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and represent French heritage.

Stations of the Cross

The mosaic stations of the cross are examples of the Roman mosaic technique, opus vermiculatum. The tesserae, small fragments of stone, are irregularly shaped and are set in vermis, or wormlike courses that follow the design con-tours.

The fourteen stations of the cross represent the events during the last hours of Jesus’ life. The Way of the Cross, or Via Crucis, is often prayed on Fridays during Lent and on Ash Wednesday.

Relics

There are several saintly relics in the Cathedral accompanying the statuary. Of note is Gothic style reliquary next to the statue of St. Anne in the left rear of the church. The reliquary contains relics of several saints including St. John the Evangelist, St. Cecilia, St. Catherine and others. During All Saints Day, the reliquary is often brought to the front of the Cathedral for veneration. Accompanying the gothic reliquary is a cross containing the relics of St. Bridget, St. Augustine, St. Mary Magdalen, and others. Several of the statues in the vesti-bule of the Cathedral are accompanied by relics.

Saint John’s Oak

The giant live oak tree on the Cathedral grounds is approximately 500 years old. It is currently Vice President of the Live Oak Society, one of the oldest members. The trunk is 9.2 feet in diameter with a circumference of 28.9 feet. It stands approximately 126 feet high and spreads to 148 feet. The largest limb of the tree has been calculated to weigh 72 tons.

Endowment

Tax Deductible contributions for the beautification and preservation of The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist can be made to:

The Cathedral Preservation Fund
515 Cathedral Street
Lafayette, Louisiana 70501

Please visit our Gift Shop and Museum Located in the Cathedral Center

Photography: Janenne Declouet

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©2020 The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Lafayette, Louisiana.

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