Completed in 1857, Christ Church Cathedral replaced a previous church that was built at this location between 1837 and 1838. Like many of the other churches that were once located in this area, the congregation almost sold this property to developers at several different times. However, even though many of the parishioners had moved from the city center, members opposed the sale of the building. Today, the Cathedral serves as the ceremonial seat of the Episcopilan Diocese of Indianapolis. The bishop of Indianapolis presides here and oversees 46 congregations throughout central Indiana. The cathedral was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
was founded in 1837 with just 30 individuals.
However, within 20 years it had outgrown its original wood-framed church
and construction on a new building began after the old church was sold to the
Bethel AME Church and transported to Georgia Street. Unfortunately, that church was destroyed by a
fire in 1862. When the cathedral was
completed in 1858, it was one of five churches on Governor’s Circle (as it was
then known) and today, is the last one still standing. It is the oldest church building in Indianapolis
and Marion county that has remained in continuous use.
was designed by well-known and Irish born architect, William Tinsley, in the
Gothic Revival style. Its original red brick
exterior was soon replaced by limestone.
Its first official service occurred in May of 1859 and the structure has
been expanded and renovated numerous times since that date. The spire was added in 1869, the Episcopal
residence in 1871, and a brick Sunday school building in 1876. Its interior was extensively renovated in
1900 with the addition of a rood screen, stained glass windows and an exterior
porch. In 1927 its basement was
excavated and renovated for educational and recreational use. Various other renovations took place in 1936,
1954, 1973 and 1983.
late 19th century, the congregation of the “Little Church on the
Circle” has considered relocating outside the downtown area and numerous
corporate interests have made offers to purchase the valuable land on which it
sits. However, congregation members, to
include famed pharmaceutical company founder, Eli Lilly, have fought to keep
the cathedral at its current location and so it has. Membership at the church has ebbed and
flowed, peaking in 1963 at over 1,100.
has always been known for its dedication to supporting the less fortunate through
its fund raising and charitable efforts.
Its social activism increased under the leadership of Paul Moore Jr. who
served as Dean from 1957-1964. The
congregation’s most successful and popular fundraiser is its annual Strawberry
Festival which beginnings are as old as the cathedral itself. Money raised is then donated to various charities;
local, national and international.
cathedral is also known for its music.
It has two professional choirs, the Choir of Men and Boys, whose
predecessor began in 1883, and the Girls’ Choir which was founded in 1945. It also has a volunteer choir known as the
Christ Church Singers. Theses choirs perform
during regular Sunday services. The
choirs can be accompanied by one of three organs within the cathedral, the
chancel organ which was built in 1989 by Helmuth Wolff, the gallery organ,
built in 1991, and the Frederick E. Weber Memorial Continuo Positive Organ
added in 1996.