Holy Family Cathedral, Anchorage, Alaska | CruiseBe
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Holy Family Cathedral

811 W. Sixth Ave
History and museums
sightseeing, church, temple

Holy Family Cathedral is a cathedral of the Catholic Church in the United States. It is the motherchurch of the Archdiocese of Anchorage and with Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral it is the seat of the archbishop. Holy Family is located in the City of Anchorage in the state of Alaska.


Holy Family parish was established the same year as the city of Anchorage. In 1915 the Rev. John Vander Pol, S.J. was sent to Alaska to investigate the need for a parish in the new settlement. A. J. Wendler acquired two lots for the new parish in an auction for $175. Father Vander Pol designed a simple wood frame building with a veneer of ornamental cement block that measured 24 feet (7 m) by 48 feet (15 m) feet. It was built for $1400. Construction of the new church was begun in September 1915 and completed on December 15 of the same year. It was the first church building constructed in Anchorage.

It was during the pastorate of the Rev. Robert Dermot O'Flanagan, S.J. that the present church was built. Seattle architect Augustine A. Porreca was chosen to design the new church. Work began on the Romanesque Revival structure in 1946. The first mass was celebrated in the unfinished basement on December 14, 1947. The parish was able to use main church by the end of the following year. Father O'Flanagan became Bishop of Juneau in 1951.

On Good Friday of 1964, an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2 devastated much of South Central Alaska. The Pope's apostolic delegate came to view the damage, and upon doing so they saw that Anchorage would be the focal point of both state and spiritual growth. In 1966, the Holy See created the Archdiocese of Anchorage, and made Alaska a separate province. Archbishop Joseph T. Ryan was installed as the first Archbishop of Anchorage on April 14, 1966. Holy Family church became a cathedral with the establishment of the new archdiocese. Archbishop Ryan invited the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) to staff the cathedral in 1974.

The Cathedral was the host church for the 1981 visit of Pope John Paul II to Anchorage, which attracted a crowd estimated at about 80,000 people. The Holy Father held a papal audience in the Cathedral itself, and a similar audience for the handicapped in the basement during his visit.

Because of growth in the archdiocese and the limitations of its downtown location, it was decided that Holy Family was no longer a practical location for many liturgical functions of the archdiocese. Archbishop Roger Schwietz, OMI petitioned the Holy See in 2013 to have Our Lady of Guadalupe Church named a co-cathedral and Holy Family maintained as the historic cathedral. In October 2014 the petition was approved and Our Lady of Guadalupe was elevated to cathedral status on December 14 of that year.

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