Cathedral of the Madeleine

Cathedral of the Madeleine

Write up and Photos by: Stephanie Gladwin


Historical Marker Transcription: Cathedral of the Madeleine: Begun the land purchase in 1889 dedicated 1909. Architects C.M. Neuhausen, B.O. Mecklenburg, John Comes. Built under leadership of Bishop Lawrence Scanlan with monies from the pius fund, mining philanthropists, and parishoners.

The Historical Marker was originally placed by: the Utah State Historical Society

Cathedral of the Madeleine Marker Coordinates: 

40.7696° N, 111.8817° W

Extended Research:

Land to build the Cathedral of the Madeleine was purchased in 1890 by Utah’s first Catholic Bishop, Lawrence Scanlan. Construction of the Cathedral started in 1900, was completed in 1909, and was dedicated the same year on August 16th.[1]

The Salt Lake Herald  covered the grand dedication of the Cathedral of St. Mary Magdalen. The Herald called the cathedral “One of the most magnificent Temples of Worship in the entire West” [2] and described it as a “Monument of the progress of the West and of America.” [3]

Bishop Lawrence Scanlan requested at the time of the dedication that the choir sing his favorite hymn, “Home Sweet Home,”[4] a song enjoyed by the thousands of parishioners who attended the grand event. At the time of the dedication, there were 10,000 Utah Catholics.[5]

Father Scanlan wanted the cathedral to serve many purposes. He thought it could serve as a home for Utah Catholics but also to serve as a representation that although Catholics in Utah were “small in number, [they] were rooted and powerful around the world.”[6] The Cathedral was double the size and cost than was originally planned. [7]  It was modeled after traditional Romanesque architecture on the exterior and Gothic on the interior. The traditional shape of the Cathedral represented the power of the Holy Roman Church throughout world history.[8]

Renaming of the Cathedral from St. Mary Magdalen to Madeleine came from Utah’s Second Bishop Joseph Glass, a very traditional Catholic. Glass had spent time in Europe before his death in 1926. He remodeled the interior of the Cathedral to better reflect the traditional Holy Roman Catholic Church, especially through art and interior design. He also renamed the Cathedral as the Cathedral of the Madeleine, with a French spelling to remind him of his time in France before his death.[9] Both Father Scanlan and Father Glass have been canonized within the Salt Lake City Catholic Diocese for their leadership on the construction of the Cathedral and the fiscal responsibility that came with it. They were not only able to pay off the debts of the Cathedral, but did so during the Great Depression.[10]

Since the Catholic community in Salt Lake City is still active in community affairs, it is important to not only recognize its historical importance in Utah but also the role that it plays in the 21st century. The Latino community is especially still impacted by the Catholic diocese and Cathedral today.[11] The Cathedral serves as a place for celebration, tradition, education, and culture for the growing Latino Community in Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake City Diocese served 291,000 Catholics in 2014.[12]

Since the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the Catholic leadership and Latter-day Saint leadership in Utah have worked hand in hand to promote a “moral” vision and maintain a conservative political stance. In a speech given by Chicago Bishop Frances George visiting Salt Lake City, he said,

“One of the high points of the centennial celebrations of the Catholic Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City was the presence of LDS President Thomas S. Monson at a multi-faith service on August 10, 2009, honoring the cathedral’s civic engagements. At the service, President Monson spoke eloquently about the enduring friendships that Catholics and Latter-day Saints have forged by together serving the needs of the poor and the most troubled of society. Through such shared dedication, he noted, we will ‘eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute, instead, the strength of many working together.’”[13]

This speaks to the modern relationship between the Catholic Community in the Latter-day Saint dominated state of Utah. The Cathedral still serves as a hub for Utah Catholicism and now functions as a place for public outreach and interfaith dialogue..


[1] Productions, Third Sun, The Cathedral of the Madeleine: History of the Cathedral (Salt Lake City, Utah: Cathedral of the Madeleine,2013), 1.

 [2] “Dedication, St. Mary’s Cathedral,” Salt Lake Herald, August 16, 1909.

[3] “Dedication,” Salt Lake Herald, August 16, 1909.

[4] “Dedication,” Salt Lake Herald, August 16, 1909.

[5] Kristen Moulton, “Cathedral of the Madeleine: A Century of Faith Set in Stone” Salt Lake Tribune, August 7, 2009.

[6]  Moulton, “A Century of Faith Set in Stone.

[7] Productions Third Sun, History of the Cathedral.

[8] Moulton, “A Century of Faith Set in Stone.”

[9] Moulton, “A Century of Faith Set in Stone.”

[10] Moulton, “A Century of Faith Set in Stone.”

[11] Productions Third Sun, History of the Cathedral.

[12] Productions Third Sun, History of the Cathedral.

[13] Francis George, “Catholics and Latter-Day Saints: Partners in the Defense of Religious Freedom” (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Speeches, 2009-2010), 2.

Secondary Sources:

Primary Sources:

See image gallery for primary source photographs taken of the 1909 dedication.

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