Blessed Sacrament Cathedral | Renovation
Photos courtesy of Diocese of Greensburg
The Romanesque/Early Gothic-style Blessed Sacrament Cathedral handsomely towers above the City of Greensburg from Academy Hill on North Main Street, the highest elevation in the city. Today Blessed Sacrament serves as the Mother Church of the Diocese but this was not always the case. Originally built for the Most Holy Sacrament Parish (a parish of the Diocese of Pittsburgh) in the 1920s, the church did not become a cathedral until the Diocese of Greensburg was erected by Pope Pius XII on March 10, 1951. The need for renovation was born from this change in function. The church’s presence needed to be elevated and its appointments rose to the level of a cathedral.
Celli-Flynn Brennan has a long history with Blessed Sacrament. Mario C. Celli, FAIA, the founder of CFB, completed a renovation of the cathedral in 1971. During that renovation, the altar was moved from the apse to the transept crossing and the original baldacchino was dismantled with the permission of the donor. Its Breccia Pernice marble columns were then sliced into slabs and laid in a bed of pink terrazzo to create the floor of the predella that you see today. In 2004, our firm began working with the Diocese again, completing a series of studies focused on further beautification of the cathedral and ADA accessibility. Following our completion of these studies, CFB was retained to carry out the restoration.
Several interior components of the cathedral were improved. One now enters through grand cast bronze doors, which replaced glass doors, into the narthex where the light fixtures were replaced with opalescent chandeliers selected by the Bishop.
Throughout the cathedral, a new patterned marble floor was installed, replacing carpet, along with a diamond-patterned, two-toned cork floor beneath the pews which complements the marble and provides quiet, resilient flooring for the parishioners. The new flooring vastly improved the acoustics within the space.
In the nave, the coffered ceiling and wood trusses were stenciled and gilded. All of the woodwork including the pews, confessionals, and the paneling at the rear of the nave and in the narthex was refurbished. Apostolic shields depicting the crest of each bishop that has served the Diocese since its inception were added beneath the stained glass clerestory windows. Along the side aisles, the Stations of the Cross (carved wood relief plaques depicting the Passion of Christ) were further beautified with the addition of cast resin frames that resemble carved wood.
At the altar, a full complement of marble liturgical furnishings, including the presider’s chair, the ambo, and two credence tables as well as a carved wooden lectern were designed and installed in keeping with the original marble altar. The marble corpus from the original crucifix was relocated and is now suspended above the altar from the crossing tower beams on a new cross designed in a style similar to the work of Giotto, a Renaissance artist.
In the apse, a new marble Cathedra and an ornamented framework representation of the original baldacchino were installed. Plaster ribs were added to the previously unornamented apse ceiling to delineate the arches and the ceiling was painted to represent a starry midnight blue sky.
The ambry vessels, now located in the south transept, received a new ornamental pierced bronze grill supporting bronze velvet-clad chambers to hold the sacred oils. In the north transept, a new baptismal font was installed which matches the marble capitals of the original baldacchino.
In the balcony, the plaster columns supporting the wood pipe organ cabinets were ornamented with fluted wood panels, ornate column capitals and carved trefoil appliqués.
All of the lighting in the church has been replaced with new energy efficient fixtures and is now tied into a dimming system for fully programmable operations as well as providing emergency power throughout.
On the exterior, CFB completed a report on the condition of the masonry and roofing systems and made a series of recommendations, which the Diocese then implemented. All of the stained glass windows were cleaned and refurbished. The existing storm windows were replaced with ventilated storm windows. Exterior lighting was replaced with energy efficient systems that now highlight the bell tower, stained glass window of the transept, rose window and front façade.