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Restoration work is underway at the Cathedral of St. Helena

Restoration work is underway at the Cathedral of St. Helena
Posted at 4:45 PM, Aug 02, 2023

HELENA — Scaffolding has engulfed the southern steeple of the Cathedral of St. Helena for much-needed restoration work.

The 109-year-old cathedral sustained damage from a powerful wind storm a couple of years ago, which displaced clay tiles on the southern steeple, which also needed stabilization.

Gary Howes, chief operating officer of the Durable Restoration Company, said they initially were just looking at some minor repairs from that storm but discovered in the process a lot more work needed to be done.

“We got to the steeples and we found that some of the wood was damaged and the tiles weren’t holding up as well as they should,” explained Howes. “The tiles themselves are in great shape, but the fasteners, the nails are not biting into the wood like they did originally.”

Construction on the Cathedral of St. Helena began in 1908 and was completed in 1914. It cost $645,000, which would be about $13.4 million to build today.

Cathedral Pastor and Rector Fr. Marc Lenneman said, although he may be a bit biased, the building is one of the most impressive Cathedrals in the United States. Hundreds of people use the building every week for worship and other ceremonies. With the traffic and natural wear and tear, there’s always work to be done.

“It’s a living church right, and this is just part of the normal way to keep a building like this in service,” noted Lenneman. “There’s always repair that needs to be done and in some ways that’s a great spiritual metaphor right? We’re all works in progress, so is the cathedral.”

Construction on the southern steeple is slated to wrap up this fall and work on the northern steeple will take place next year.

Although work is being done, the scaffolding has been constructed so as to not impede entry into the building. Masses are still happening at their standard times and the Cathedral of St. Helena remains open for all.

“The Cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese of Helena, so all our other parishes in some sense flow from and look back to the Cathedral. So it’s the spiritual center of the Diocese and obviously a really beautiful and amazing place for prayer and encounter with God,” said Lenneman.

Howes told MTN his team is honored to work on properties like the cathedral that mean so much to their communities. Ideally, the public won’t notice much once their work is finished.

“So we go back with original materials, the mortar will match exactly the motor they did in 1908,” Howes said. “Our guys aren’t just craftsmen, they’re artisans. Many of them have a degree in art history. So they’ll go up there and not only put the mortar back in and make it functional, but look like it was never done in the first place.”