HISTORY OF SACRED HEART PARISH
(Extracted from The History of Sacred Heart Cathedral, 2008*)
St. Margaret’s Church (1856-1891)
Our parish was originally named St. Margaret’s, after St. Margaret of Scotland. It was so named in honor of Marguerite LeClaire, wife of Antoine LeClaire, one of Davenport’s founding fathers. Mr. LeClaire donated the land and financed erection of the original church building.
The first pastor of St. Margaret’s was Father Andrew Trevis, who served from 1856 until 1861. He was born in France and moved to America at the urging of Bishop Loras of Dubuque, who ordained him in 1850. Fr. Henry Cosgrove, who had studied at the seminary in Dubuque under Fr. Trevis, became the second pastor (1861-1884). During this period of time, the decision was made to establish a new diocese headquartered in Davenport with St. Margaret’s as its cathedral. The first bishop was Bishop John McMullen, who was installed July 30, 1881. Unfortunately he died after only two years in this position. He was succeeded by Bishop Henry Cosgrove, who was officially installed September 14, 1884. At that time, Fr. Andrew Trevis was again appointed as pastor of St. Margaret’s Church, as well as Vicar General of the Diocese of Davenport. After serving the parish for many years, Fr. Trevis resigned in 1899, when Fr. James Davis, an Irishman, was named its fourth pastor.
Although the parish was renamed Sacred Heart when the new cathedral was dedicated in 1891, the name of St. Margaret’s was retained by the chapel. The Holy See’s approval of the new name (see below) included the stipulation that a chapel be maintained and dedicated to St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland. Today, there is a mural-sized painting of St. Margaret hanging above the piano near the east entrance to the cathedral (see photo). This 19th century painting was refurbished between 1988 and 1990 as part of the overall cathedral renovation funded by the Elizabeth Kahl Figge endowment.
Origin of Name of Sacred Heart Cathedral
Fr. Andrew Trevis, first and third pastor of St. Margaret’s, was deeply devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He had visited Paray-de-Monial, France, where the Sacred Heart of Jesus had been revealed to St. Margaret Mary. As a result, there was great devotion within the parish to the Sacred Heart. Bishop Cosgrove was also devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and incorporated this devotion into his coat of arms. At the time, there was a worldwide movement toward special devotion to the Sacred Heart. Subsequent to a decision in March, 1889 to build a new cathedral, Bishop Cosgrove recommended to the Holy See that it be named Sacred Heart Cathedral. This request was approved by Pope Leo XIII on December 23, 1889. Sacred Heart Cathedral would become the first cathedral in the United States dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (Building)
On March 3, 1889, Bishop Henry Cosgrove announced plans to build a new cathedral. A sum of $10,000 had already been raised toward the estimated cost of $80,000-$100,000 for the new building. Mr. J.J. Egan of Chicago was chosen as the architect, lauded in the Catholic Messenger as the architect who “won renown for building the new Cathedral in San Francisco and eventually gained the distinction of being Chicago’s best architect.”
The cornerstone for the new cathedral was laid on Sunday, April 27, 1890. A special Mass was presided over by Bishop Cosgrove, who was assisted by Fr. Andrew Trevis, Fr. M. Flavin of Des Moines and Fr. D.J. Flannery of St. Anthony’s Parish. The Mass was sung by Msgr. Jon Krekel of St. Mary’s, Ottumwa. Msgr. A. J. Schulte of St. Ambrose College, was Master of Ceremonies, assisted by Fr. Bernard Mackin, Cathedral Assistant. The sermon was give by Fr. A.A. Lambert, S. J. of Milwaukee.
Thousands lined the streets and lawns as Bishop Cosgrove laid the cornerstone with a silver trowel, with a litany being chanted by Fr. Lambert. The cornerstone included the following items: “The Iowa Catholic Messenger”, “The Freeman’s Journal” (New York), “The Western Watchman” (St. Louis), daily newspapers, coins and business cards. Also put in the cornerstone was a document which read:
“On the feast of the Patronage of St. Joseph, the 27th day of April, the year of Our Lord, 1890, Leo XIII being Pope, Henry Cosgrove second Bishop of Davenport, A. Trevis Vicar General, J. Davis Rector of the Cathedral, B. Harrison, President of the United States of America, H. Boies, Governor of Iowa, C.A. Ficke, Mayor of the City of Davenport, was laid the cornerstone of the Cathedral Church, dedicated to God, under the invocation of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, designed by the Architect J.J. Egan.”
Fundraising continued during 1890. On New Year’s Day, 1891, Bishop Cosgrove sent a letter to all Diocesan parishes announcing that $50,264.90 had been collected and another $30,000 was still needed. By this time, the cathedral had a roof. It stood 75 feet above ground, which was already 180 feet above sea level. The spire towered some 160 feet from the ground, making the Cross the tallest structure in the city and visible at a great distance. (As a point of reference, the Statue of Liberty is 151 feet, 1 inch; 305 feet, 1 inch when measured with pedestal and foundation). Gas pipe for lighting was laid and lathing applied in February, walls and ceiling plastered in April and woodwork installed by June. Window frames were made at a mill in Rock Island and ferried across the river. The frame for the window over the main altar reported weighed 3 ½ tons. Work began quickly on the interior, which included installation of windows donated by individuals and groups. Also installed at that time were the bishop’s throne and natural oak church pews, as well as sanctuary carpeting.
The dedication was held on November 15, 1891 and was attended by 1200 people, including four bishops (besides Bishop Cosgrove), 32 priests and city and county officials. Dedication ceremonies were conducted by Msgr. John Kreckel, followed by a solemn Pontifical Mass, the first Mass in the Cathedral, celebrated by Bishop Cosgrove. Music was provided by the Cathedral Choir under the direction of J.L. Herbert and the organ (purchased by Antoine LeClaire), which had been moved from the old cathedral, was played by Mlle. Therese Laurent of Muscatine.
Additions made to the cathedral after the 1891 dedication:
Stations of the Cross: 1892
New Rectory: 1895
Replacement of Church Organ: 1895
Installation of Electric Lights in the Sanctuary: 1895
Four small statues of Sts. Benedict, Anthony, Thomas Aquinas and Ignatius: 1902
New convent: 1902
Marble outside statue of Sacred Heart of Jesus: 1907
Redecoration “Frescoing” of Church Interior: 1907
Choir Loft enlarged: 1907
Six hundred New Lights installed: 1907
On August 20, 1928, lightening struck the cathedral during a severe thunderstorm, resulting in extensive smoke and water damage. As a result, roof repairs and a complete redecoration of the interior were required. This was not completed until Holy Week of 1929. The ceiling decoration was completed by Hartman and Seddig, a local firm, and the woodwork in the church was refinished in early English oak, a darker stain than the original.
In 1939, St. Margaret’s Chapel was redecorated. In 1941, new lighting was installed and the church sanctuary and aisles were carpeted in red. A new Kilgen organ was installed in the cathedral in 1950 at a cost of $27,000.
Changes to the Mass brought about by Vatican II resulted in purchase of a portable altar in March, 1964, which allowed the priest to face the congregation for the first time. The Cathedral was the first church in the Quad Cities to do this. However, the communion rail was not removed until 1980. At that time, the bishop’s throne and canopied pulpit were removed from the sanctuary, new carpeting was installed, the interior was repainted, the roof was repaired and protective coverings were installed over the stained glass windows. Before the renovation was completed in 1981, a new oak altar was also acquired. Further repairs were made in 1986 with funds received from the Corsiglia estate: waterproofing, insulation, rewiring, cleaning and tuck pointing and installation of air conditioning.
A major renovation in the early 1990s with funds from the estate of Elizabeth Kahl Figge (in time for the Cathedral's Centennial), involved a complete refinishing of all woodwork and repainting of the massive interior. The floor of the main alter was covered with imported “faux marble” ceramic tiles from Italy to enhance acoustics. The original Italian statues were repainted and the St. Margaret painting was refurbished (Intermuseum Laboratory in Oberlin, Ohio). The painting was moved at that time to its current location near St. Joseph’s altar. Also part of the renovation was installation of a new Noack tracker Pipe Organ, which was used for the first time at Bishop O’Keefe’s 25th Episcopal Anniversary on January 29, 1992.
(Note: More recent additions to the church have included the original statue of Our Lady of LaVang (2004), Our Lady of Guadalupe Painting (2005), St. Martin dePorres Statue (2006). In 2006, the old, single-boiler that formerly heated the cathedral complex was replaced with 3 smaller, energy-efficient boilers. A new handicap-accessible entrance was added to the east side of the cathedral in 2012).
Andrew Trevis 1856-1861
Henry Cosgrove 1861-1884
Andrew Trevis 1884-1889
James Davis 1889-1906
John Flannagan 1907-1926
Francis Leonard 1926-1932
William Shannahan 1932-1937
Martin Cone 1937-1953
Thomas Feeney 1953-1968
Ralph Thompson 1968-1971
Sebastian Menke 1973-1986
Marvin Mottet 1986-2005
Robert Busher 2005-2010
Robert Gruss 2010-2011
Richard Adam 2011-
*COPIES OF THE HISTORY OF SACRED HEART CATHEDRAL ARE AVAILABLE FOR $10 AT THE PARISH OFFICE OR IN THE 10TH STREET VESTIBULE OF THE CATHEDRAL.