|Joe Giovannetti, of New Jersey-based Giovannetti Marble and Granite, works on the space where the new marble pulpit will be placed on the altar of the Cathedral of the Incarnation. The addition of a new marble altar, pulpit, and cathedra, or bishop’s chair, will complete the original vision of Nashville Bishop Thomas Byrne, who oversaw the construction of the Cathedral from 1910-1914. The renovations are taking place as Cathedral celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2014. Photos by Rick Musacchio
When the Cathedral of the Incarnation was originally under construction from 1910-1914, Nashville Bishop Thomas Byrne envisioned an altar finished in fine Italian marble.
However, at that time, the start of World War I in Europe, there was no way to import the marble and “he was never able to realize his dream,” according to Father Ed Steiner, rector of the Cathedral.
Now, 100 years later, the Cathedral’s altar is finally being finished the way Bishop Byrne envisioned. Since this year marks the 100th anniversary of the dedication of Cathedral, Bishop David Choby thought it would be an appropriate time to refresh and refurbish the sanctuary, complete with Italian marble.
For weeks, Joe Giovannetti and a crew from the New Jersey-based Giovannetti Marble and Granite, have been busy working on the altar renovations. They will install a new marble altar to replace the old wooden and plaster one, as well as a new marble pulpit and cathedra (the chair that the bishop sits on). To conform with current Catholic cathedral design standards, the cathedra will be moved to the left side of the altar (as viewed from the pews), and the pulpit will move to the right.
The renovations will give the altar a look that more closely resembles its original appearance, according to Father Steiner, minus the post-Vatican II changes to the worship space.
This current project is the third major renovation to the church’s sanctuary in the Cathedral’s 100-year history.
|Joe Giovannetti works on the Cathedral altar renovations in early December. The instillation uncovered a mosaic tile floor in the altar area of the Cathedral, but it will be recovered with carpet, since it would be cost-prohibitive to remove the carpet and restore the 100-year-old tile at this time.
Bishop William Adrian oversaw the first major renovation in 1937, which included needed repairs, new lighting and better weatherproofing. At that time, the Angelus prayer was also inscribed on the upper walls under the windows.
Fifty more years would pass before another major renovation was undertaken in 1987. This included moving the tabernacle to the new Eucharistic chapel and adding a baptismal pool in the back of the church, among other updates.
The current altar renovations are expected to be complete by Dec. 17. Bishop Choby plans to dedicate the new altar at that time, when the priests of the diocese have their annual Christmas gathering at the Cathedral. “The work is on schedule, but putting marble in is painstaking work,” said Father Steiner.
This project is a diocesan wide one. Over the summer, Bishop Choby asked every parish in the diocese to make a contribution toward the cost of the altar renovations. “This new altar expresses the common life of faith which we share centered as it is on the Eucharistic presence of the Lord,” he wrote in a letter to members of the diocese.
In the Catholic Church, the cathedral is the home church of the diocese’s presiding bishop and his center of operation. “The Cathedral is a diocesan church, but a parish uses it,” explained Father Steiner. “It’s the mother church of the diocese, but it belongs to everyone.”
Throughout the year, the Cathedral plays host to a variety of diocesan-wide sacramental and social events like priestly ordinations, and the annual all-schools Mass during Catholic Schools Week and the Chrism Mass during Holy Week.
While Cathedral parishioners will not be responsible for covering the cost of the new marble instillations, “the parish has to maintain it,” Father Steiner said, ensuring that the marble stays cleaned and polished.
Throughout the project, Masses are still able to be celebrated in the main sanctuary. Priests work around the construction for daily Masses, and the work crew cleans up and takes a break for weekend Masses.
As parishioners come to Mass and see the work in progress, “you can see the excitement build” toward completion, said Father Steiner.