St. Francis Xavier Cathedral

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral 626 Fourth Street, Alexandria, LouisianaSt. Francis Xavier Cathedral
626 Fourth Street, Alexandria, Louisiana

The first Catholic church, St. Francis, was built in 1817 in Alexandria, actually the first church of any denomination in the city. St. Francis Xavier Church was built in 1834 on Front Street, located under the present levee between Bellier and Xavier Streets.

As the Union army pulled out of the Alexandria in 1864 during the disastrous Red River Campaign of the Civil war, Father J. P. Bellier disguised his voice to impersonate that of General Nathaniel Banks, the Union commanding officer, and ordered the troops to spare the church. His plan succeeded and the St. Francis Xavier church building was saved, the only church left standing in Alexandria when the city was burned by the Union Army.

In 1895, Reverend Leonard Menard envisioned a larger place of worship. The cornerstone of the present cathedral building was laid on December 3, 1895, the feast day of St. Francis Xavier. A few weeks later, on December 30, 1895, the original church on Front Street burned.

The first Mass was celebrated in the Gothic Revival structure on November 27, 1899. Sand for mortar was dug from the Red River bed, and floors of native pine were laid. In 1907 the belfry was added; the clock was installed in 1908. The Rectory, first built in 1896, was extensively renovated in 1930.

St. Francis Xavier Academy, built in 1897, was located on Fourth Street in downtown Alexandria, adjacent to the Cathedral. It was remodeled and enlarged in 1907.

Because of the stature of the newly constructed church and Alexandria's central location, the seat of the diocese was moved from Natchitoches to Alexandria. Pope Pius X created the Diocese of Alexandria on August 6, 1910, and  St. Francis Xavier Church was elevated to the rank of cathedral of the newly created diocese.

Today, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral still boasts some of the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the state of Louisiana. The rose windows in the apex of the transept are the largest in the state, and the main altar is hand-carved walnut.

Our family has had strong ties to the Cathedral for decades. My mother and all of her sisters and brothers were baptized, made first communion, and were confirmed in the Cathedral. My mother and father were married in the Cathedral on September 12, 1934.

Today, the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Complex includes the cathedral building itself, St. Francis Academy (erected in 1897), and the rectory. See historic marker below for details.

The Cathedral remains an active, integral part of Alexandria today, and continues to meet the religious needs of the Alexandria community. For more information, we highly recommend a visit to the official website of the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Parish.

Historical Marker at the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Complex

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Complex Historical Marker, Alexandria, Louisiana
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Complex Historical Marker, Alexandria, Louisiana - When Poste du Rapides was established in Pineville the Catholic mission of St. Louis des Apalachees was founded. Mass was said in private homes in the new town of Alexandria. A chapel built in 1817 was the first church of any denomination in this city. St. Francis Xavier Church was built in 1834 on Front Street. Rev. Leonard Menard envisioned a larger place of worship. The cornerstone of the present edifice was laid on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, December 3, 1895. A few weeks later the original church burned. The first Mass was celebrated in this Gothic Revival structure November 27, 1899. Sand for mortar was dug from the Red River bed and floors of native pine were laid. In 1907 the belfry was added: the clock installed the following year. The Rectory, first built in 1896, was extensively renovated in 1930. St. Francis Xavier Academy, erected in 1897, was remodeled and enlarged in 1907. Bishop Cornelius Van de Ven petitioned Rome to transfer the See city from Natchitoches to centrally located Alexandria. Thus, on August 6, 1910, St. Francis Xavier Church became the Cathedral. These 3 buildings are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Cathedral complex.


Photos of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Alexandria, Louisiana
(photo by the author)
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Alexandria, Louisiana
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Alexandria, Louisiana
(photo by the author)
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Alexandria, Louisiana
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Alexandria, Louisiana
(photo by the author)
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Alexandria, Louisiana
Plaque honoring the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Alexandria
1853 - 2003
(photo by the author)
Plaque honoring the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Alexandria, 1853 - 2003
St. Francis Xavier Academy
(photo by the author)
St. Francis Xavier Academy
St. Francis Xavier Academy
(photo by the author)
St. Francis Xavier Academy

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