Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral
A small twelve thousand dollar cement church
building was opened on December 10, 1837.
This modest structure was known as the
church of Saints Peter and Paul. Over the
years, the Catholics in Providence grew in
There was also an influx of Irish Catholic Immigrants, and the small church of
Saints Peter and Paul could no longer accommodate all the devotees.
The Catholic population grew to over two hundred thousand by the year 1872.
Bishop McFarland proposed the construction of a bigger church, but,
unfortunately, he did not get the necessary support for such a project.
In 1871, Pope Pius IX founded the Diocese of Providence to cover Rhode
Island, part of Massachusetts and Marthaís Vineyard.
Father Thomas Hendricken was
the first Bishop of Providenceís new diocese, which had a
Catholic population of more than one hundred thousand; over
fifty priests; forty three churches, six academies, one
orphan asylum and nine parish schools attended by around
four thousand students.
Like Bishop McFarland, Bishop
Hendricken thought that it was necessary to build a larger
cathedral to replace the outdated and ineffective building.
Bishop Hendricken worked to pay off a rather sizable debt
the parish had incurred in the past, so that the
construction of the new church could begin. He was able to
pay off the entire sixteen thousand dollar debt in 1872,
after which, the preliminary planning for the new building
Patrick C. Keely was commissioned to draft the plans for the
project. He started the conceptualization and the schematic
design phase for the church in 1873. In 1874, a interim
place of worship was built after Bishop Hendricken approved
the design plans for the construction of a nineteen thousand
dollar cathedral. A new rectory was built in place of the
old one at the corner of Fenner and Pond streets to house
Catholic devotees while the new cathedral was still being
put up. To this day, through the preservation efforts of
worshippers, the rectory still stands.
The footings and foundations of the Cathedral of Saints
Peter and Paul were laid in 1878. Bishop Hendricken,
realizing the heavy financial burden of undertaking a
construction project of such a large scale, began setting
aside ten thousand dollars each year. In addition to this,
he organized several fundraising campaigns to ensure
finances for the new church.
In 1882, the roof was finally completed. The designers and
carpenters began working on the cathedral interiors.
Regrettably, and to the distress of the Catholic population
in Providence, Bishop Hendrickenís health quickly
deteriorated and he passed away before the close of the
project that he, ultimately, spearheaded. Although it was
yet to be finished, the new Cathedral was chosen as the
venue for Bishop Hendrickenís funeral mass. By the time of
his passing, around three hundred thousand dollars had been
spent on the construction. In June 1889, the magnificent
Cathedral was blessed by Bishop Matthew Harkins.