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Architexas Reflects on History of Cathedral Guadalupe Following Prestigious National Shrine Designation

The Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, located in the heart of downtown Dallas, is one of the most significant historical landmarks in North Texas.

The Cathedral was recently granted the prestigious designation of a National Shrine, a sacred place that met the requirements prescribed in the norms for the Designation of National Shrines and its honor given by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in recognition of religious significance.

Acknowledging this significant designation, Architexas took the time to sit down with its team that restored the Cathedral and reflect on its impressive 121-year history. Craig Melde, senior principal at Architexas, looks back on Cathedral Guadalupe as “the most meaningful project he has ever done in 46 years of architecture.”

“Craig Melde, senior principal at Architexas, looks back on Cathedral Guadalupe as “the most meaningful project he has ever done in 46 years of architecture.”

History of the Cathedral

The 1890 Diocese of Dallas needed a new place to call home, and a new cathedral was proposed in 1902 by Bishop Thomas Brennan. The architect chosen to design the cathedral, Nicholas J. Clayton, is regarded as the greatest Victorian architect Texas has ever known. Clayton designed a magnificent and powerful gothic revival cathedral enriched with brick and stone embellishment and large rose windows of stained glass. The interior also included gothic revival design with wood beamed ceiling enriched with stenciling in the coffers. A gothic designed high altar below was the focal point.

The Cathedral Guadalupe of Dallas (formerly known as Sacred Heart Cathedral) was completed in 1902. 

The Cathedral has been through several renovations throughout its 121-year history. The Cathedral experienced its first major renovation in 1966 after the Second Vatican Council. The cathedral was modernized, simplifying the interior architectural design removing or covering many of the original gothic features. Among many interior changes was the painting over of the ceiling stencil work and a complete renovation of the chancel removing the ornate high altar and reredos which were reportedly left on the Ross Avenue Street curb.

1966 Cathedral Vatican II Renovation

1977-2001 Our Lady of Guadalupe

“Detailed ceiling stencil work was painted over, and the ornate reredos were reportedly left on the Ross Avenue Street curb.”

In the 1970’s, other diocesan parishes were built in the suburbs of Dallas and attendance at the cathedral decreased while the neighboring Our Lady of Guadalupe parish has outgrown their facility. In 1977, instead of building a new and larger Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the diocese decided to merge the parish with the Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Sacred Heart Cathedral was renamed to Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe.

In 1998, the diocese and cathedral saw a need for a renovation for a growing catholic community and renewal of the historic character it once had. Architexas was hired in 2000 to prepare a Restoration Master Plan for the Cathedral. Architexas is a renowned architecture firm in the state of Texas, specializing in historic preservation and restoration.  Architexas called in Charles Tapley, an architect with extensive Catholic church experience, to join the team.

The goal of the cathedral and the Dallas Dioceses was to reverse the design from the 1960s and return the Cathedral to its former architectural character. The masterplan included the renovation of the channel with a design more appropriate to the original historic Gothic character. The design included an enlarged chancel and new liturgical furnishings in the gothic style, including a new altar and ambo. The Architexas team flew to Italy in 2001 to hand-selected the marble and carving team that would be used to build the new altar and ambo.

Blessed By the Pope

A significant element in the cathedral’s chancel was a large tapestry of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Members of the Parish struggled to part with the large tapestry in the renovation plans. To comfort the members of the Parish, a new smaller image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was commissioned and taken by Father Ramon and the Dallas Diocese to Italy to be blessed by Pope John Paul II. The new image was placed in a carved stone reredos in the chancel.

New image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was blessed by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

Interior Reredos Renovation by Architexas

2004 Interior Renovation by Architexas

Finishing a Master Architect’s Work

When the cathedral opened its doors as “Sacred Heart Cathedral” in 1902, the cathedral architecture was a masterfully executed gothic revival design. The original design Nicholas Clayton design included plans for a stunning bell tower and steeple. The cathedral had run low on funding during construction and was unable to complete the tower and steeple.

Architexas was hired again in 2004 to complete Clayton’s design and add the bell tower and steeple. The team visited the Blake Alexander Architectural Archive at the University of Texas at Austin and found copies of the original historical drawings. There was only one drawing that included the original bell tower to refer to but was an excellent guide to understand Clayton’s vision. Design of the brick and stone details, structural design and installation of a 49-bell carillon, in Clayton’s vision, required a creative interpretation and extensive knowledge of gothic revival architecture.

The completed bell tower and the cathedral is a valued asset to the downtown Dallas experience. “It was truly an honor to finish the exterior cathedral, bell tower, and steeple; 107 years after ground was first broken at the site,” Melde said.

“It was truly incredible to finish the exterior cathedral, bell tower, and steeple; 107 years after ground was first broken at the site,” Melde said.

Photo Gallery: Cathedral Guadalupe Through History