If you’ve been in downtown Jackson in the last 6 months or so, you’ve probably noticed that the steeple and tower of the Cathedral of St. Peter’s have been encased in scaffolding.The steeple was damaged by the high winds of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005 (can you believe Katrina was almost 5 years ago now? do I sound old?), according to the April 30 issue of the Mississippi Catholic newspaper, but was already suffering from rot of all sorts and leaks even before then. In addition to repairing this “hidden” damage, the church undertook a full restoration of the steeple, although initially I had heard discussion of removing the whole structure and replacing it with a lighter metal-framed steeple.
Since the middle of January the 110-year-old building has undergone $700,000 of repairs and renovations to its steeple, roof and bell tower.
As the scaffolding gradually comes down, it reveals the newly-gold-leafed 9 x 6 foot cross atop the 25-foot slate-covered steeple with copper seams.
Moving downward, the floor of the steeple becomes the ceiling of the bell tower, which has copper-cladded gables.
On each side of the bell tower is a small gold-leafed cross. Surrounding the bell tower are 12 newly-polished finials.
This restoration cost more money than cheaper options, and the results are worth the effort. Durable Restoration Company, with offices in Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana and Florida completed the project earlier this month. Now that the steeple work is done, this renovation project will continue in phases, including repair of the brick and mortar re-pointing, and later, stained-glass window restoration.
I had been curious if the work would in any way deal with the mosaic above the front entrance, which I believe replaced a large arched stained-glass window back in the 1960s. The mosaic, which depicts Christ as a shepherd surrounded by individuals of all races, states, “There shall be one flock, and one shepherd.” I’m told that the mosaic was put in place as a response to the Civil Rights struggles in the state during the 1960s, and as such, it’s a historical document of the church, more than any “restored” stained-glass window would be.
Congratulations to St. Peter’s for taking this major step and investing in the ongoing maintenance and repair of this Jackson landmark. So often, churches allow their buildings to deteriorate to the point that the costs are insurmountable. It’s great to see all of the downtown churches taking care of their buildings to ensure they remain living and functioning anchors of the community.