San Fernando Cathedral is the oldest active cathedral in the United States and on March 29, national and international dignitaries will convene in San Antonio to celebrate the restoration of this historic landmark with a Dedication Ceremony.
In addition, the public will view for the first time, a 24-foot by 16-foot gilded retablo that features the theme of "Jesus Christ, Word and Sacrament." A retablo is a large wooden altar screen that serves as a backdrop for the tabernacle or statues and paintings of Christ and the Saints. Retablos were traditionally used as the central artwork in Spanish Colonial churches in the Americas.
The retablo was handcrafted by 10 artists from Mexico City and is one of the main features of the newly restored Cathedral. "It will be one of the most significant works of art in our city and possibly the country," said Father David H. Garcia, rector of San Fernando Cathedral.
San Fernando Cathedral is a center for great Hispanic traditions such as the annual Passion Play, which attracts 25,000 people, the annual health fair, numerous social services and community programs, artistic and musical presentations, and interfaith gatherings. The City Council is blessed at San Fernando at the beginning of each term, while numerous groups such as police, educators, union leaders, and housing advocates attend special services as well.
The City of San Antonio has officially proclaimed March 29 through April 6 as San Fernando Cathedral City Centre Dedication Week, and numerous events are scheduled throughout the week.
The City Centre Capital Campaign raised more than $15 million for the restoration and new construction, which is being completed in three phases. Phase I is the completed restoration of the Cathedral. Phase II is the Cathedral Centre, which is adjacent to the Cathedral. The Cathedral Centre is now under construction and will house a coffee shop, gallery, gift shop, sacristy, reception room and television control room. Phase III is the Community Centre, which is designed to serve the ever-growing need for gathering space and community programs. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Community Centre is planned for April 6, 2003.
"The historical value of these events is significant because it is the most comprehensive restoration of the oldest Cathedral building in the United States," said Father Garcia. "The structural improvements that have been made to the Cathedral will allow San Fernando to serve parishioners and visitors for hundreds of years to come."
In 1999 the Historical Centre Foundation was formed. The Foundation is a non-profit foundation founded to preserve San Fernando Cathedral and the City Centre as the historic center of San Antonio and to extend the Cathedral's services to the people of the City of San Antonio and to the communities beyond San Antonio. The foundation serves to raise funds in support of the works of the San Fernando Cathedral, particularly in the areas of social services, community outreach and cultural events. For more information please visit www.sfcathedral.org.
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