Cathedral of Saint Helena

There is a touch of Vienna in the Rockies – the Cathedral of Saint Helena.

The Cathedral of Saint Helena is the Cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena. Modeled by architect A.O. Von Herbulis after the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria, the construction began on the Cathedral in 1908, and held its first mass in November, 1914. The Cathedral sustained significant damage during the 1935 Helena earthquake, which required extensive renovations. The Cathedral was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The site for the Cathedral was purchased in 1905. A.O. Von Herbulis of Washington, D.C. was commissioned as the architect. Von Herbulis was trained abroad and was chosen for his knowledge of the Cathedrals of Europe. Rough sketches were prepared in two styles, Romanesque and Gothic. When the drawings were presented, the building committee chose the Gothic form; a motion to authorize that design passed unanimously. Von Herbulis modeled the Cathedral after the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria, which he had become familiar with while studying at university in Vienna.

The Cathedral’s most prominent feature is its 230 foot twin spires, which were directly inspired by the Votivkirche. Adorning the spires are gold-leafed crosses that stand 12 feet in height and six feet in length. The Cathedral’s north tower contains 15 handcast bells, which represent the 15 mysteries of the Rosary.

The interior of the Cathedral boasts 11,693 square feet of stained glass across 59 windows, which depict various scenes from the Old and New Testament. The church’s limestone exterior also features 29 statues of saints and other figures.

The stained glass windows for the Cathedral were made and installed by the F.X. Zettler Firm of Munich, Bavaria. By the time the Cathedral was dedicated, 46 of the planned 59 windows had been installed. The Zettler Firm claimed that the 37-window set, which told the Christian story from the fall of Adam and Eve to the Church in the early years of the 20th century, surpassed any windows which it had made during its first 50 years. The remaining windows in the clerestory level were installed by 1926 by Charles J. Connick, a craftsman from Boston.

See full story in this week’s Dakota Dunes / North Sioux City Times.