Vancouver’s religious art lures hikers from Oregon


There aren’t many buildings in Vancouver like the Proto Cathedral of St. James the Greater on West 12th Street. The pointed arches, steeply pitched gabled roofs, and stained glass windows of the church stand out from the modern brick-and-glass office buildings and skyscrapers found throughout downtown.

Amy Parent, whose official title is Pastoral Assistant for Faith Formation but describes herself as the Religious Education Coordinator, treated about 20 Angora Hiking Club members and guests to a bit of the history of the church before leading them on a tour of the church’s holy sanctuary. art and treasures.

Built in 1885, the Proto Cathedral of St. James is an example of Gothic Revival architecture. The architectural style, which reached its peak in the early to mid-19th century, was often used in churches, schools, and even rural homes. His intricate and ornate styles were inspired by medieval design and a notable departure from previously popular styles inspired by ancient Greece and Rome.

“The Catholic population in 1820 was 200,000 in this region. Within about 30 years, it grew by a million on top of that, and then by about 1.6 million in the 1950s,” Parent said. “We had a huge influx of people here.”

Why were so many Catholics coming to Vancouver? Parent said having an existing church — the smaller St. James Church built in Fort Vancouver in 1846 — was a draw, but there was also another reason.

“They also came to explore the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest,” Parent said.

One of the most frequently asked questions to Parent is: what is a proto-cathedral? She explained that “proto” means it was an old cathedral.

“In 1907, Bishop O’Dea moved the cathedral to Seattle,” Parent said, which also meant moving the cornerstone of the church to Seattle. “It’s sad that he had to be moved, but he was smart in that Seattle got a little bigger than Vancouver.”

Items seen during the visit included dozens of works of art brought back by the founder, Bishop AMA Blanchet, from his travels to raise funds for the church. Among them were several paintings (later discovered to have been painted in Mexico on sacks of vegetables), statues, and clothing.

There’s one feature that many visitors to the church won’t see – a 33-star American flag found crumpled in a corner during one of the renovations. The 33-star version became the official flag of the United States on July 4, 1859, after Oregon was admitted to the Union. Parent said the flag is not among the sacred items on display at the church, as it is a secular item rather than a religious one.

A trip to Vancouver to visit an ancient cathedral might not seem like the right choice for a hiking club, but for club president Craig Holt, it was a great day trip.

He said he particularly enjoyed being able to climb the spiral staircases to see the church organ and pipes, and the old bell room where a handful of orphans were housed in the late 19th century.

“I’m surprised they didn’t have bells,” Holt said.

While the church previously had bells, the tower now houses an electronic bell system. One of the original bells now stands outside the church.

Holt said he grew up in Chicago and often visited Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. He also attended the University of California, Berkley, well known for its carillon bells, which helped spark his interest in them.

The Angora Hiking Club – based in Astoria, Oregon – will celebrate its 102nd anniversary on July 4. As the name suggests, many of the club’s adventures revolve around hiking, whether it’s an urban stroll along a waterfront or tackling the Fort to Sea Trail. at Fort Clatsop. But the club’s adventures are not limited to hiking alone. Past activities have included skiing, horseback riding, swimming, learning mushroom identification and more.

Rudi Fruth and his wife, Maria, traveled from their home in Ridgefield for the tour after reading an article in the newspaper.

“I always heard the name Proto Cathederal and wondered what a proto cathedral was,” said Rudi Fruth. “I have read about this church many times so it was timely.”

Fruth said he and his wife recently returned from a trip to England, where they visited several cathedrals.

“Why are we going this far? It’s beautiful,” he said.

“I heard about it and thought it would be a fantastic thing to do, just get to know Vancouver, what’s in it,” said Vancouver resident Penny Slater.


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