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Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans
Christ Church Cathedral is the official seat of the Bishop of Louisiana, in the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana .
Founded in 1803 by the protestant inhabitants of New Orleans; Christ Church Cathedral was the first non-Roman Catholic church founded in the entire Louisiana Purchase territory.
In June of 1803, 53 protestants responded to an appeal to form a protestant congregation in the predominantly Roman Catholic City of New Orleans. After a preliminary meeting, the choice of denomination was put up to a vote. The ballot results were: Episcopalian, 45 votes; Presbyterian, 7 votes; Methodist, 1 vote. With the result of the vote, the Episcopal congregation of Christ's Church was founded. Soon after, a call was sent to various colleges and churches in the east for recommendations for a suitable clergyman. On November 16, 1805, Philander Chase, a young minister from Poughkeepsie arrived with a letter of introduction from Bishop Benjamin Moore of New York. The founders approved of young Chase and at eleven o'clock in the morning of the following day, Philander Chase preached his first sermon at the Cabildo on the Place d'Armes.
Services were held in various public buildings until 1816 when the first Christ church was erected at the riverside corner of Canal and Bourbon streets. No sketch exists of this first Christ Church. Records show it was designed by Henry Boneval Latrobe, son of the distinguished architect, Benjamin Henry Latrobe. The building was octagonal in shape, 60' in diameter with a domes roof surmounted by a cupola and constructed in brick.
The Second and Third Christ's Church
By 1833 the first church building proved to be too small for the growing congregation. By 1855 plans for a new church building on the same site were drawn by the noted architects James Gallier, Sr. and James Dakin. The new building was in the design of a Greek Temple, fronted by six Ionic columns supporting a pediment. It was consecrated on March 26, 1837.
In 1845 Dr. Francis Lister Hawkins became rector of Christ Church and he submitted plans for a third church building. One of the plans had been drawn by Thomas Wharton, drawing teacher and architect. In 1846 the Vestry contracted James Gallier, son of the famous Gallier who designed the second church, to build the new church following Hawks' and Wharton's plans, for $56,000. The third building was Gothic in style, with buttresses and a central tower, and was erected on the lakeside corner of Canal and Dauphine streets. At this time the second building was bought by Judah Touro and became a synagogue. The Gothic style church served the Christ's Church congregation for 40 years. In 1873 Jewell's Crescent City said of this building, "Christ Church is one of the most elegant church structures in New Orleans." Neither this nor the earlier buildings still survives.
The Fourth Christ's Church
By the late 19th Century, New Orleans had grown tremendously. Most of the parishioners of Christ Church lived in uptown New Orleans and it was decided to relocate the church in that area. The corner of Canal and Dauphine was valuable commercial property. The present property on the corner of St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street was purchased. The cornerstone for this present Christ Church was laid on June 10, 1886. This fourth building, also Gothic in style, was designed by architect Lawrence B. Valk of New York. Through a devoted benefactor, the Chapel of matching design was added in 1889. Since it was debt free, it was consecrated prior to the Cathedral.
In 1959 the latest expansion program was begun-providing space for administrative offices, the Church School, library, assembly hall, and service areas. The architects were Freret and Wolf. The Gothic design of the Cathedral and Chapel were followed.
Christ Church has been fortunate in having a procession of distinguished and dedicated rectors and deans. James F. Hull followed Philander Chase, who went on to become the first Bishop of Ohio in 1819(where he founded Kenyon college), the first Bishop of Illinois in 1835, and in 1852 he became Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church; Nathaniel Wheaton; Francis L. Hawkes (who was chosen the first president of the University of Louisiana, which later became Tulane University); Edmund Neville; William Thomas Leacock, who served Christ Church for 30 years; Alexander I. Drysdale and David Sessums, who left to become the 4th Bishop of Louisiana, an office he held for 38 years.
Christ Church Becomes a Cathedral
Under Bishop Sessums' sponsorship, Christ Church became a Cathedral in 1891 and young Quincy Ewing served briefly as its first Dean. He was followed by F. J. Paradise, Charles L. Wells, William A. Barr, J.D. Cummins, William H. Nes, Albert R. Stuart, who was elected Bishop of Georgia in 1954, William E. Craig, Leonard E. Nelson, Richard Rowland, David Lowry, Dr. John Senette, and the present Dean, David A. duPlantier.
Christ Church served not only its parishioners, but the community as a whole. It was instrumental in founding the chapel for French Protestants, started St. Peter's Mission(1846) which later became St. Anna's Episcopal Church; founded a Children's Home in 1860, aided in founding Trinity, Calvary, and St. Andrew's Episcopal churches. In a broader context, Christ Church has a special interest in Sewanee: The University of the South, which was in part founded by the first bishop of Louisiana, The Right Reverend Leonidas Polk.
The Cathedral Today
Today, the Cathedral continues to direct its efforts toward the spiritual and physical needs of its parishioners, the neighboring community and the world at large.
The Cathedralís identity is as complex as that of New Orleans itself. One of the Garden Districtís popular tourist attractions, the church structure is a venerable landmark. But Christ Church Cathedral is not a museum. It is a vital, energetic Episcopal parish, drawing its membership of approximately 800 from all of the nearby communities. The Cathedral is also one of New Orleans' active, and perhaps oldest, philanthropic organizations, funding projects throughout the city, diocese and beyond. Its outreach to city residents today include a feeding ministry (with The Restoration Embassy located on St. Thomas St.), Advent House, a spiritual direction and retreat center, a nationally recognized concert series which offers our community the gift of soul-feeding music and support of many local cooperative initiatives.
Worship includes three Sunday services, as well as the daily offices and celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, offering a rich variety of Anglican worship.
In November of 2004, the Cathedral began a year long observance of its bicentennial, which will continue until November 2005.
The Cathedral is Headed by its current dean, The Very Rev. David duPlantier and is the seat of the Tenth Bishop of Louisiana, The Rt. Rev. Charles Jenkins.
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