the United States
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Shrines and Holy Places
The Cathedral of Saint Peter
500 North West Street
Wilmington Dlaware 19801
In 1804, Irish-born Father Patrick Kenny began a 36-year ministry for Catholics in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Twelve years later, Father Kenny leased land for a church at the corner of Hanover and West streets for 100 years at $30 per year.
Pierre Bauduy, a French refugee who also designed the Wilmington town hall, was hired as architect, and the corner stone was laid in 1816. Father Kenny dedicated the 30- by 40-foot brick, tin-roofed church to St. Peter on Sept. 12, 1818, at 6 a.m. and celebrated the "first congregational Mass in Wilmington for a vast concourse" the following day.
Father George A. Carrell the, parish's first resident assistant curate, extended the church to 30 by 60 feet in 1829. At the same time, a bell tower was installed with a memorial stone, which can be seen today, noting the 1829 additions.
In 1852, a new school and rectory were built on either side of the church, and a cemetery at Twelfth and Madison streets.
In 1868 Pope Pius IX established a new diocese, encompassing Delaware and the Eastern Shore counties of Maryland and Virginia. The Rev. Thomas A. Becker was named first bishop of the Wilmington Diocese.
Extensive remodeling was undertaken between 1870 and 1905. Improvements included a larger sanctuary and sacristy, new frescoes, marble baptistry, three marble altars, chancel railing, bishop's throne, and a barrel-domed roof. Stained-glass windows.
When the refurbishing was completed the church was to be consecrated as a cathedral.
However, when the apostolic pro-nuncio saw that the church was conjoined with the rectory and school, he refused to designate it. It was given the designation of pro-cathedral.
The cathedral was closed in 1981 for structural repairs to the ceiling and alterations in accordance with liturgical guidelines of the Second Vatican Council.
Ten years later in 1991, extensive structural renovation were again necessary. Flying buttresses were added to fortify transept walls and to strengthen interior columns. The cathedral was raised to install a steel substructure for the pillars and choir loft.
With all the renovations and changes the cathedral has grown into a beautiful and unique structure. A Romanesque-style with distinctively American detailing.