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St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Complex

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Complex

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral is one of the most recognized and revered landmarks in downtown Alexandria, in addition to being one of the few remaining sizable buildings that date to the 19th century in the area. It was constructed from 1895-1899, under the direction of Father Menard, after the church that preceded this one burned in 1895, despite being one of the few buildings in Alexandria to have survived the Civil War. Funds were slowly raised for the new building through donations, contributions, and fundraisers. It was designed by Nicholas J. Clayton as the first brick Gothic Revival church in the city. As construction began, sand for the mortar was extracted from a sandbar in the Red River at the end of Lee St., and the foundation brick is said to be repurposed brick donated from the remains of Mooreland Plantation. The contractor was August Toussaint, who also constructed the rectory. Noted for its spectacular and detailed stained glass windows installed in the 1940s to replace the original leaded-glass windows, it boasts the largest rose windows in the state. The Latin cross church has a five bay nave, a tall transept, and a semi-octagonal apse. It has heavily proportioned gables and simple lancet arches with “Y” tracery. These early Gothic features are mixed with later Gothic features, including rose windows, the three part entrance, and the 135 foot tower with its four center arches. The square tower, added in 1907, is surmounted by crenellation and four small corner towers. Many repairs and alterations were made under the direction of Father Nuedling between the 1920s and 1940s including a new marble communion rail and steps, the addition of 12 new lanterns for interior lighting, a new pulpit, the installation of new stained glass from the Jacoby Art Glass Co., and the covering of the wooden tongue-and-grove center beading ceiling with Masonite, a type of manmade hardboard. The cathedral continues to serve the parishioners of Central Louisiana.

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