Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cathedral of St. Helena under renovation

The Cathedral in Helena, MT under renovation
Orlinda Worthington
The Cathedral in Helena, MT under construction

Renovation work is underway on an historic, 109-year-old cathedral in Helena.

Bells atop the Cathedral of Saint Helena ring out on the hour across Montana’s capitol city.

The bells are housed in one of two stone towers.

On top of each tower sits an eight-sided spire reaching 230 feet from the ground, topped with a golden cross. The towers flank two huge, wooden, west-facing front doors to the imposing historic structure.

“West is where the sun sets. As you enter into the church, you walk to the east and the east is where the sun rises. A way architecturally we leave the darkness at the door as we enter the church and then we move toward the light, which is kind of a beautiful way of understanding the spiritual journey," says Father Marc Lenneman, rector.

He says the historic limestone building was damaged by the 1935 earthquake and from a more recent powerful wind storm.

Durable Slate out of Ohio specializes in historic restoration. COO Gary Howe says they are fixing corroding mortar, replacing rusty metal, securing clay roof tiles plus numerous other structural repairs, all while keeping the integrity of the historic neo-gothic style masonry.

“It’s a tradition that's long lived for centuries from over in Europe and throughout the world. Those people really preserve their old buildings, and we all marvel at them,” said Gary Howe.

The more-than 200 foot scaffolding wrapping the north tower right now is hard to miss. But, Howe says, if they do their job right, no one will ever know they were there.

“We take a lot of pride in being able to preserve it and do it in a way that it looks like it's always been there. We don’t change, we don’t alter things.”

Father Lenneman says it’s that beauty, observed in many ways, that makes the four and a half million dollar renovation worth the cost.

“For those of us who live in Montana, we're surrounded by so much natural beauty and we just love that. Beauty also speaks to our hearts and it calls to our souls and the Cathedral of Helena, by every objective measure, is a beautiful building architecturally and then spiritually. That beauty calls to every heart, and it’s something that we want everybody to be able to experience,” Lenneman said.

Restoration on the Cathedral of St. Helena in Montana’s Capitol is expected to be complete next summer.

Orlinda Worthington hosts “Morning Edition” weekdays on YPR. She brings 20 years of experience as Montana television news anchor, producer, and reporter.