The classic architecture of ancient Greece and the functional forms of the Kansas Grain elevator and silo are combined in the modern eclectic style church and rectory of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina Kansas which was erected in 1951-53. It was designed by Mr. Edward Schulte of Cincinnati, Ohio, under the inspiration and guidance of Bishop Frank A. Thill.
The life of all the people in this rural section of Northwestern Kansas centers in the planting and harvesting of wheat. On every horizon there may be seen the towering concrete tubes of Kansas grain elevators, symbolic of our way of life and proclaiming the fruitfulness of our soil.
Therefore, here in rural Kansas the Holy Bread of the Eucharist and the spiritual bread of God’s holy word is fittingly shared in a Cathedral that belongs to the contemporary Kansas landscape. In a sense the church is God’s granary from which His people are fed for the nourishment of their minds and hearts.
The Cathedral is the dwelling place of the Good Shepherd. Its tower reflects the shape and lines of a farmyard silo. Like the cattle and sheep that gather in the feeding lots and around the silos on our Kansas farms and ranches, Christ’s flock finds nourishment and security and joy in the shadow of the Cathedral tower that is not too lofty and frightening but full of deep spiritual significance for those who till the soil and love the animal husbandry of tending the flocks and herds.
The Cathedral south front doors are accented by a large carved crucifix of Silverdale limestone. The head of Christ on the cross is turned to the right, as though He were viewing the generations of His followers represented in the processional panel of sculptured figures who are bearing their cross. The processional group is preceded by a Kansas farmer and his wife with their children, one carries a sheaf of wheat. Priests, religious and laity all assist the Bishop in carrying the cross. A Capuchin kneels in adoration. Above his head are representations of Kansas sunflowers. The small procession continues on the western portion of the Cathedral front entrance where begins the quote from Jesus; “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
XXThe year 2000 saw two major additions to the front of the Cathedral building. The original narrow vestibule was expanded into a large gathering space. A large parish hall with full kitchen was also attached to the southwest front corner of the original Cathedral. This addition made possible the expansion of the original confessionals into reconciliation rooms and upstairs restrooms and a bridal room.
The focal point of the new gathering space is the large baptismal font with overhead skylight. The cruciform font was designed to accommodate the choice of baptism by immersion. Steps inside the font enable the one being baptized to descend into the water of the font from one side and ascend out on the opposite side, symbolic of the descent of Christ into the tomb and His resurrection from death to new life. Prominent in the gathering space is a triptych framing an icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which includes icons of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Principal Patroness of the Diocese of Salina, and another icon of St. Francis of Assisi, Secondary Patron.
In the sanctuary of the Cathedral hands a large 20 foot crucifix which shows Christ with his right hand in the Greek manner of blessing – two fingers outward, with the thumb and the two other fingers turned in. On the circular canopy above the crucifix is written: Cor Jesu, spes in te morientium – Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in you; Domus Dei et porta coeli – House of God and gate of heaven; Cor Jesu, omni laude dignissimum, salve in te sperantium – Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise, salvation of those who hope in you. On the ceiling within the circle above the crucifix appear Greek letters: IC representing the Greek word for Jesus, XC representing the Greek word for Christ, and the Greek word NIKA, which means victory. Thus the symbolism above the cross: “Jesus Christ the Victor”.
The sculptured relief panels on Silverdale limestone on both side of the crucifix include the figures of St. Peter, St. Matthew and St. Luke on the left and St. Paul, St. Mark and St. John on the right. In the original Cathedral, directly under the large hanging crucifix stood a large black marble high alter with seven large brass candlesticks and the Blessed Sacrament tabernacle. The high altar was dismantled in 1998 and the altar of celebration which now stands in the middle of the sanctuary was constructed. The relics of St. Boniface and St. Clement, which were buried in the marble of the old altar remain intact in the present altar of sacrifice. The marble legs on which the present altar stands were taken from two sections of the communion rail removed from the middle, providing more open space between the people and the sanctuary.
In the sanctuary there is an abstract pattern of gold and black mosaic which enhances the rounded back wall. Above the north entrance foyer and framing the sanctuary on the east are the pipe organ chambers. Latin words and Greek Letters make up part of the wooden grill of these organ pipes: spec (hope), nike (victory), pax (peace) lux (light) IOX (Jesus Christ God), icxc (Jesus Christ). There also appear on this wooden grill a symbol of the Holy Spirit in the form of a descending dove; the snake around the tau cross, symbol of healing; the heart symbol of love; the anchor symbol of firmness and permanency; the A and O symbol of Christ who is the beginning and the end; and the wheat and chalice symbols of the Eucharist. The right and left sides of the altar and sanctuary are flanked by choir stalls used by the liturgical ministers and concelebrating priests.
The side chapel in the cathedral was originally a chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since the renovations, the Blessed Sacrament is now reserved in the tabernacle on the Blessed Mother’s altar. The sculptured relief on the wall in that chapel is a figure of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother. Many circular designs with various symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary decorate the ceiling of the side chapel.
Eleven massive 30 foot round stone pillars in the nave of the church help to support the Cathedral and add to its majestic look. AD (Anno Domini) and the Roman Numerals MCMLI on the column by the communion rail indicate that the Cathedral cornerstone was laid “In the Year of our Lord 1951”.
A small circular room, formerly the baptistery, is located at the base of the tower. This room has been decorated with a wall painting depicting the scenery around Mexico City, to create a special chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The statue of Our Lady was brought to the Cathedral from the small parish church of Our Lady of Guadalupe which was closed in 1965.
Twelve crosses on the walls of the Cathedral symbolize the Twelve Apostles, the Twelve Pillars of the Church. These crosses were anointed with the Oil of Sacred Chrism at the time of the consecration of the Cathedral. Twelve candles also adorn these places of anointing.
The sculptured relief on the back wall of the cathedral is a figure of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the titular name of the cathedral. Cor Jesu, inflama cor nostrum amore tui – Heart of Jesus, inflame our hearts with your love is engraved at the base of the relief.
The fourteen traditional stations of the cross are etched into the walls of the Cathedral on the east side. These etchings serve to foster prayerful meditation on the passion, crucifixion, death and burial of Christ.
The Cathedral’s 21 windows, each 25 feet high, were designed by artist Mr. Anton Wendling in Aachen, Germany and were assembled by Mr. Erhardt Stettner in Milwaukee, WI. The glass was imported from Germany and England through the T. S. Esser Co. of Milwaukee. They are alive in color and present a veritable “litany of saints” in mosaic glass. Donors, whose names appear on the bottom portion of each window, were given the honor of naming the windows. The larger windows cost $2,240.00 each and the five windows above the confessionals were about $1,000 each. The saints depicted in the windows include: St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Isidore, St. Thomas Moore, St. Margaret Mary, St. Boniface, St. Patrick, St. John the Baptist, St. Ruth, St. Theresa – the Little Flower, St. Mary Magdalene, St. James the Apostle, St. Peter, St. Michael, St. Anne, St. Joseph, and Mary, the Mother of God.