Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
The Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart is a Romanesque Revival style cathedral church and a minor basilica located in Charleston, West Virginia. Along with the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling, it is the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. The parish complex is a contributing property in the Downtown Charleston Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.
Backstory and Context
Sacred Heart Parish began to grow has a major spiritual center for Charleston in the late 1800s. After visits from several major priests, including Bishop Richard Whelan from the Diocese of Richmond, the settlers of Charleston decided it need a sacramental area. In 1862. Father Joseph W. Stenger organized the Catholic Church in the area. While in Charleston, Father Joseph would have to hold Mass in private homes until a permanent area would be purchased to hold a temporary church. Bishop Whelan would purchase a two-story brick house on the corner of Broad and Quarrier streets.
Father Joseph W. Stenger came to United States in 1837 from Germany with a German heritage. Growing up in Wheeling, Stenger regularly served under Bishop Richard V. Whelan. Showing interest in being a priest, his parents wanted to help reduce the associated cost; however, they were unable to afford those finances. To alleviate the financial burden of attending seminary, Stenger would work in Bishop Whelan's house. Once gaining the funds, he attended St. Vincent's School before moving on to St. Charles' College. Stenger eventuall traveled to France for study. He gained his priesthood on September 27, 1862 and began to learn under tutelage of Bishop Whelan.
Believing the existing church too small for his congregation, Stenger decided to begin the process to gain a larger church. Funds for the church were taken up beginning in 1885 along the foundations being laid by Bishop Donahue. The church was completed prior to the death of Stenger. His 34 years of priesthood and leadership would lay the foundation of the church. Father Stenger would die on October 30, 1900, at the age of sixty-five. Under the leadership of Father Constantine, the bell of old church was added to new church. Father Agatho Rolthe, a member of the Roman Capuchins, decided to lay the foundation of the rectory built on the site. This first brick was laid in 1902.
Through decades of building and work on sustaining a consistent congregation, the Sacred Heart Church underwent many changes. The largest of the changes were the names and designations held. On October 4, 1972, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston designated Sacred Heart a co-cathedral. The fifth bishop of Wheeling, Bishop Joseph Hodges, obtained this approval directly from the Vatican in Rome. This approval would realign the diocese to show the significant presence of the Catholic Church in the southern counties of West Virginia. In 2007, the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral gained the honor of being named a Diocesan Shrine of Santo Nino de Cebu to indicate the vibrant faith of the community. Santo Nino de Cebu represented the vast array of members who came from various national and ethnic backgrounds. Then, in 2009, the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral Parish was termed a minor basilica. In 2017-18, the parish underwent a major renovation that includes many artifacts from Rome. Relics of St. Kateri Tekawitha, St. John XXIII, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton are in the altar at the front of the sanctuary.
Crenwelge, Brian. "A Brief History of Our Parish." 100th Anniversary of Sacred Heart.
National Register of Historic Places. “Charleston East End Historic District.” Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia.