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New roof being installed at the Old Cathedral

Temporary fix after wind damage in May held through extensive rain

Workers installed a new copper roof Aug. 6 to replace the roof destroyed by strong winds at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis King of France (Old Cathedral). The work is expected to take several weeks.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
Work began last month on a new copper roof for the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral) to replace the roof destroyed by strong winds.

Most of the roof, made of terne metal coated copper, blew off in the early morning hours of Palm Sunday, April 14, when winds of 50-60 miles per hour were reported through St. Louis and into Central Illinois. Water seeped through the light fixtures in the plaster ceiling, with planters catching water dripping from the ceiling.

Masses were canceled on Palm Sunday at the historic church on the riverfront in Downtown St. Louis. A membrane was installed on the roof to prevent water infiltration until a permanent roof is installed, and Masses resumed later on Holy Week. The temporary fix held up well after enduring a substantial amount of rain, said Randy Rathert, director of the archdiocese’s Building and Real Estate Office.

The Old Cathedral is working with the National Park Service to ensure the replaced roof respects the architectural historical nature of the building and for logistics. The Old Cathedral is surrounded by the grounds of the Gateway Arch National Park. Preliminary work began on the roof replacement in mid July, and the project was expected to last several weeks.

Rooftech is serving as a consultant on the work, and DHA Sheet Metal, Inc. is the contractor.

The 100-plus-year-old roof was not part of a $15 million restoration effort, which began in 2013 and was completed in 2016. The 185-year-old building underwent an interior renovation, with stripping, repairing and refinishing the oak pews, confessionals and altar railing and the original maple floor. The walls, ceiling, statuary and decorative millwork were restored and repainted, mosaic floor of the sanctuary repaired and mechanical, electrical and HVAC systems updated. Lighting changes were made to highlight the architectural integrity of the building as conceived in the 1830s. Outside, the original limestone facade was restored, windows replaced, roof, gutter and steeple repaired.

The church is the first cathedral west of the Mississippi River and was the only church of any denomination for local settlers until about 1816. It is truly the “Mother Church” of St. Louis, the first permanent church in St. Louis. The current church structure was completed in 1834, with a renovation to give it its current look which began in 1853.

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