Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral
Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral was designated as a national landmark by the U.S. Congress. It was built between 1816 and 1819. It was the first Catholic cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains. It is known for its many paintings and gifts from Europe by Francis I, King of the Two Sicilies, Pope Leo XII and King Louis Phillippe of France, among others.
Backstory and Context
Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget was responsible for raising the funds to begin building the structure. The first cornerstone was laid in July of 1816. John Rogers of Baltimore, Maryland was the chief architect and chose a Greek Revival style. Much of the labor and resources were donated by the area’s settlers. Most of the materials used in the building process were local. Though it was largely completed by 1819, the interior of the cathedral was entirely complete until 1823.
It was recognized in 1995 for its contributions to Catholic Church heritage in the United States and named a titular see by the Vatican. Bardstown is one of only three titular dioceses in America. It has a bishop but in an honorary capacity. The entire complex includes Spalding Hall and Flaget Hall, originally St. Joseph College, and is on the National Historic Register.
Many of the paintings donated to the church were works by Murillo and Van Dyke. The paintings donated by King Louis Phillippe of France were stolen from the church on November 12, 1952. At the time, they were valued at $875,000. They later covered in the spring of 1953.
Today, St. Joseph features a wide range of ministries including an elementary and high school.