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Gothic Pride

The Story of Building a Great Cathedral in Newark

Brian Regan

Publication Year: 2012

Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is one of the United States’ greatest cathedrals and most exceptional Gothic Revival buildings. Rising from Newark’s highest ground and visible for miles, it spectacularly evokes its historic models. Gothic Pride sets Sacred Heart in the context of American cathedral building and, blending diverse fields, accounts for the complex circumstances that produced it. Calling upon a wealth of primary sources, Brian Regan describes in a compelling narrative the cathedral’s almost century-long history. He traces the project to its origins in the late 1850s and the great expectations held by the project’s prime movers—all passionate about Gothic architecture and immensely proud of Newark—that never wavered despite numerous setbacks and challenges. Construction did not begin until 1898 and, when completed in 1954, the cathedral became New Jersey’s largest church—and the most expensive Catholic church ever built in America. During Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States in 1995, he celebrated evening prayer at the Cathedral. On that occasion, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was elevated to a basilica to become the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Meticulously researched, Gothic Pride brings to life the people who built, contributed to, and worshipped in Sacred Heart, recalling such remarkable personalities as George Hobart Doane, Jeremiah O’Rourke, Gonippo Raggi, and Archbishop Thomas Walsh. In many ways, the cathedral’s story is a lens that lets us look at the history of Newark itself—its rise as an industrial city and its urban culture in the nineteenth century; its transformation in the twentieth century; its immigrants and the profound effects of their cultures, especially their religion, on American life; and the power of architecture to serve as a symbol of community values and pride.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xvi

This book began with a question, prompted by unexpectedly seeing a great stone church. It had picturesque towers, transepts, and a soaring copper spire. I saw it—what appeared to be a medieval cathedral—while traveling by train, not in France or Germany or England but in New Jersey, when I chanced to gaze toward the horizon as the train approached Newark...

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pp. 1-4

Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart is an exceptional example of American church building, and the long, important cathedral-building venture that it represents carries many distinctions. Its early leaders were the first American cathedral builders to search abroad for an architect and also the first Catholic cathedral patrons to conduct a formal architectural competition. After many challenges, when later generations...

Part I: Gothic Vision in Newark

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Destination: Newark

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pp. 7-16

On a Sunday afternoon in the late fall of 1869, a young priest known for his flair for oratory stood before a small crowd gathered in Newark. In a big, passionate voice, he proclaimed: “Newark has done wonders in the past . . . and here today in this hallowed spot there is laid the foundation of the Cathedral not to be surpassed in beauty by any in...

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Gothic and the Context of American Cathedral Building

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pp. 17-27

From the inception of the cathedral project, Bishop Bayley and other Church leaders in Newark imagined that the building would be in the Gothic style. Three of the four structures, for instance, referenced by Father McCarthy at the cornerstone ceremony of the Cathedral Chapel were Gothic. Though famously authoritative and centralized, the Catholic...

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Gothic Passions: The Doane Family

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pp. 28-33

George Hobart Doane recalled his boyhood home in New Jersey as an American center for “the dissemination of the views which took their origin in Oxford, and were first broached in the ‘Tracts for the Times,’” a reference to the Oxford Movement. This rightly credits his father, George Washington Doane, as one of the most influential forces in both the High...

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Father Doane and Jeremiah O’Rourke: Architectural Collaborators

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pp. 34-42

Jeremiah O’Rourke, a refugee from the Irish Famine, in 1850 came to Newark, where his extended family settled. For the O’Rourkes, immigration was a relatively brief reversal of fortune. Jeremiah’s father ran a successful tailor shop in Dublin, where Jeremiah was born in 1833. Just a few years before, Irish Catholics had won civil liberties following centuries of oppression, and enterprising men like the elder O’Rourke entered...

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Newark’s Gothic Pilgrims Abroad

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pp. 43-50

Boarding the steamer Russia, Cunard Line’s newest and first all-propeller- driven ship, in May 1870, Father Doane and Jeremiah O’Rourke headed o¤ on their mission. Doane wrote lengthy letters home for publication in the Advertiser that made Newarkers fellow-travelers on a journey that the priest was sure would lead to the creation of the finest...

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“The Newark Cathedral”: Gothic Pilgrims at Home

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pp. 51-57

Exhilarated by all that they had seen and accomplished and by their dreams for Newark, priest and architect came home, triumphant. The Advertiser painted this brightly lit scene of Doane’s return:
The serenade to Rev. Father Doane last evening in honor of his return home from his travels on the continent of Europe, was a complete ovation. A torchlight...

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Bust: Crisis and a Grand Hope Deferred

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pp. 58-64

No place dropped further in the fiscal descent than Saint John’s Church in Orange, O’Rourke’s church that had opened only a couple of years before. What happened there is one of the most extraordinary episodes in American church building, and it brought the Diocese of Newark to its knees. Moreover, it forever altered the course of the cathedral...

Part II: Interludes

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O’Rourke in Washington

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pp. 67-75

Jeremiah O’Rourke became supervising architect of the United States in 1893. He had a rocky time in the post, and several episodes during this public service (as well as other interactions with the supervising architect’s office) elucidated his professional motivations and personal character. O’Rourke’s interlude in Washington bears closer scrutiny than would ordinarily be called for here because of its value in interpreting a later turning...

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Monsignor Doane

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pp. 76-85

If a Dutch-style group portrait of Newark’s eminences had been painted in the late nineteenth century, George Hobart Doane, in the ecclesiastical attire that he wore grandly, would have been in it. On an arc of advancement since his ordination, Doane succeeded Bernard McQuaid as pastor of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral parish. Doane built on a strong legacy...

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Stilled Project, Ceaseless Change

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pp. 86-96

Three factors stilled the Newark cathedral project for more than two decades, from 1875 to 1897. Oscillating economic conditions made it difficult to make long-range plans. Leadership troubles plagued and distracted the bishop of Newark. And an onslaught of new immigrants sorely stretched the resources of the diocese. The zigzagging trajectory of...

Part III: Sacred Heart Cathedral

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Newark’s Rise and the Project’s Revival

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pp. 99-106

At one point in the aftermath of ill-fated 1870s cathedral project, the Diocese of Newark considered selling the cathedral property. Monsignor Doane rallied with others to protect it. Guarded interest in resuscitating the plans occurred in the late 1880s. This was accompanied by doubt of another kind. Despite the picturesque effects that the site promised...

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The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

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pp. 107-115

Accounts of O’Rourke’s winning design were clear about the cathedral’s style. One called it “thirteenth-century Gothic Style” and another, more precisely, “continental Gothic of the thirteenth century.” The composition owed much to the High Gothic masterpieces of Chartres, Notre Dame, Rheims, and Amiens, but it equally called upon the Gothic...

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Progress and Setbacks

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pp. 116-130

Simultaneous with the grand-scale landscaping work in Branch Brook Park, contractors began readying the cathedral site in early 1898. In late spring, a firm led by Peter Boyle, from a family of well-regarded builders in nearby Kearny, constructed the foundations, subsurface bearing walls, and the underground footings for the cathedral’s structural columns. An earlier press notice, almost certainly produced by O’Rourke, told...

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The Great Foundation Controversy

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pp. 131-151

In the winter of 1905–1906, workers made preparations to build the cathedral’s arcade. Waldron’s men constructed the bases for the columns and then started the difficult task of raising the heavy granite columns upon them. O’Rourke suddenly asked Waldron to halt work, sending two letters in as many days about it. Here the record, though more...

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New Architect and New Era

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pp. 152-158

Fear that the foundations might be compromised in places other than the piers that had been examined led Isaac Ditmars and the diocese to have all of them dismantled so that other possible deficiencies could be addressed. This radical measure permitted the remedy of deeper excavation in some places, further leveling of bedrock, and reconstruction of...

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Boom and Bust Again

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pp. 159-170

Newark, like other American cities, roared during 1920s, fueled by a zeitgeist of prosperity that grew stronger as the decade unfolded. Commercial plants multiplied and boomed. Retail operations, from the big department stores to store-front shops, grew unabated. It was an era when Newarkers came to have a choice of more than sixty live theaters and...

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Regional Developments and Twentieth-Century Cathedral Building

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pp. 171-180

Unfinished, Sacred Heart Cathedral sat in still watch over a city that was transformed once again. In the boom years of the 1920s, a small metropolis of tall structures rose in downtown Newark. When the Military Park Building opened in 1926 at twenty-one stories, it was the tallest building in New Jersey. New Jersey Bell Telephone put up a twenty-story...

Part IV: Completing Sacred Heart

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pp. 183-190

It was against this multifaceted architectural backdrop that Newark returned to its many-decades-long cathedral project. Within months following V-J Day in 1945, Newark Church officials beckoned architect Paul C. Reilly to the Newark chancery to discuss, in general terms, the future of its cathedral endeavor. Did they consider other architects? Certainly, the...

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Interior Scheme: Artistry from Here and Abroad

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pp. 191-199

The compressed timetable for completing Sacred Heart meant that thematic decisions about decorative arts could be deliberate but not overworked. Early in their discussions, priests on the cathedral planning committee stipulated a single-level sanctuary platform and a “liturgical style” (freestanding) altar. Newark’s Church leaders were open to progressive...

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Complete at Last

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pp. 200-208

In summer 1952, building contractors and subcontractors, artists and artisans all labored furiously. But as this charge raced to the finish, the necrology of those who grasped for the grail of a completed cathedral in Newark lengthened by one name. With an abruptness with which he made many decisions, Archbishop Thomas Walsh died. Sacred Heart’s interior— crammed with scaffolding, pallets of stone, crated materials, and laden with...

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pp. 209-220

Finishing Sacred Heart brought a season of applause for Newark clergy, architect Paul Reilly, designer Gonippo Raggi, and the hundreds of workers who labored with them. The latter visited by the dozens to take photographs and give tours to family and friends. Thousands more came to Newark to see the sparkling-clean stone landmark, say a prayer in what...

Appendix A

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pp. 221-224

Appendix B

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pp. 225-228


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pp. 229-256


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pp. 257-260


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pp. 261-266


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pp. 267-290

About the Editor

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813553467
E-ISBN-10: 0813553466
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813552880
Print-ISBN-10: 0813552885

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 30 photographs
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Newark (N.J.) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
  • Basilicas -- New Jersey -- Newark.
  • Gothic revival (Architecture) -- New Jersey -- Newark.
  • Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (Newark, N.J.).
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