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HOLY NAME CATHEDRAL FIRE: 134-Year Landmark Torched By Flames (VIDEO)

Holyname

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 03/07/09 05:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:05 PM ET

Scroll Down For Updates, Video And A Slideshow Of The Fire


UPDATE 2/5


A day after a fire ripped through its roof, Holy Name Cathedral didn't miss a beat, offering mass in the parish center's basement:

"It's not a faith of things; it's a faith of relationships," Rev. Patrick Lagges said in his homily. "That's why we can celebrate down here, instead of in the cathedral."

About 20 worshipers attended the 7 a.m. Mass, sitting on plastic folding chairs instead of in the usual wooden pews. Holy water was placed in a bowl on a table in front of the men's bathroom, and there was scant religious art except for a large Virgin Mary statue.

From AP:

A fire burned for more than two hours Wednesday at Holy Name Cathedral, severely damaging the attic and leaving gaping holes in the roof of the 134-year-old landmark that is the seat of Cardinal Francis George.

Firefighters battled the blaze in frigid temperatures at the iconic church, which had been destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire and rebuilt.

"First we have to thank God no one was injured," George said after surveying the damage inside the church. "Chicago has always bounced back from fires."

Flames shot through Holy Name's roof for about an hour before being replaced by plumes of white smoke.

Lourdes Mayback, 54, a parishioner for 25 years who has helped distribute communion and served as an usher, stood across the street from the cathedral and cried as it burned.

"My heart is breaking in pieces," she said. "This is my life here, my home."

The fire was out around 8 a.m. Afterward, icicles hung from pews and water dripped from light fixtures, George said.

While no injuries were reported from the blaze, a firefighter suffered a minor back sprain after slipping and falling.

There was no smoke or fire damage in the sanctuary, fire department spokesman Larry Langford said. The cause is under investigation.

Holy Name's pastor, the Rev. Daniel Mayall, said the fire set off the sprinkler system, which kept the flames from extensive wood paneling and ornate decorations.

But Chicago Archdiocese Chancellor Jimmy Lago described the water damage to the church as "humongous," and said crews were pumping water from the basement.

Church officials said it was too early to estimate the full extent of the damage, but Lago said he expected the cathedral to be closed for months. Masses will move to the parish auditorium and the parish center north of the cathedral, officials said.

A member of a crew doing repairs to the church discovered the fire, which appeared to have been burning for a while, said city Fire Commissioner John W. Brooks.

Restoration and repair work on the building had been ongoing after engineers determined structural weaknesses in the roof caused a 10-pound piece of decorative wood to fall 70 feet from the ceiling last February. No one was injured in the incident.

"We have gone through a lot in the last year, and it's a shame to see that we're back to square one again," Mayall said.

The church and its nearby buildings, including a school and a rectory, take up an entire block in downtown Chicago. The fire did not damage other buildings.

Holy Name Cathedral, built in the Gothic revival style, can seat 1,520 people. Its spire reaches 210 feet.

The Sun-Times's Kara Spak surveyed the damage inside the cathedral, where "[w]ater is waist-high in the basement and pours onto a pillar in the church's worship area like a waterfall."


Watch Fire Department video from inside the church:



Watch footage of firefighters putting out the flames:



More footage from NBC Chicago:



The parish will continue to offer a full schedule of masses despite the fire, according to a note on the cathedral's Web site:

MASSES WILL BE OFFERED IN THE CATHEDRAL'S AUDITORIUM THIS SATURDAY AND SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 7 & 8, AT THE REGULAR HOURS - SATURDAY AT 5:15PM & 7:30PM AND SUNDAY AT 7:00AM, 8:15AM, 9:30AM, 11:00AM & 12:30PM & 5:15PM. THE AUDITORIUM IS IN THE BUILDING JUST NORTH OF THE CATHEDRAL. DAILY MASSES WILL RESUME ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, IN THE CLUB ROOM LOCATED ON THE LOWER LEVEL OF THE PARISH CENTER JUST NORTH OF THE CATHEDRAL AT 6:00AM, 7:00AM, 8:00AM, 12:10PM & 5:15PM MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY; MASS ALSO WILL BE OFFERED ON SATURDAY AT 8:00AM & 12:10PM IN THE CATHEDRAL'S CLUB ROOM. THE BOY SCOUT AWARDS CEREMONY PREVIOUSLY SCHEDULED FOR SUNDAY AFTERNOON HAS BEEN POSTPONED. THE LOCATION OF OTHER SPECIAL EVENTS WILL BE DETERMINED BY NEXT WEEK AND AFTER THE DAMAGE TO THE CATHEDRAL HAS BEEN ASSESSED.

Couples who had planned weddings at the cathedral found themselves scrambling to find alternate venues:

With just seven weeks left before the big day, Garcia wasted no time. He called the wedding coordinator at Old St. Patrick's church and he was really lucky. He got the last spot.

Fr. Tom Hurley says Old St. Pat's is working with Holy Name to accommodate couples. His church has already received calls about summer and fall ceremonies.


Cardinal Francis George said their was water damage and the roof would have to be rebuilt, but sounded a resilient note:

"Chicago has always bounced back from fires and I think we'll bounce back from this," the cardinal said as he left the church.

Watch George discuss the damage:



Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin called the cathedral an "iconic presence in Chicago and any damage to it is damage to the fabric of the city itself."

Going forward, Kamin writes, the question will be whether the damage is structural or cosmetic:

Structural damage would be the equivalent of a person suffering broken bones. Cosmetic damage would be like a scar on the skin. Both would require expensive repair, but structural damage would more likely have a long-term impact on the building's future.


Visit the cathedral's Web site


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