After nearly two years of renovations, the main sanctuary at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End is expected to reopen next month — just in time for Holy Week.
The first Mass in the renovated space is scheduled to take place April 14, Palm Sunday, the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem. All Holy Week and Easter services will be held there, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
“I never thought I would see it done,” said the Rev. Kevin J. O’Leary, the cathedral’s rector. “I’m just so excited about it.”
The cathedral is the mother church for the archdiocese and the largest Catholic church in New England. In 1979, the cathedral hosted Pope John Paul II during his first trip to the United States as leader of the Catholic Church. Former president Barack Obama spoke at an interfaith service there in 2013, three days after the Boston Marathon bombings.
The main worship space has been off limits to the public since May 2017 when work began on a $26 million project to restore and renovate the cathedral. Two chapels at the cathedral have been hosting services during the construction. The cathedral was dedicated in 1875 and seats 2,000 people.
People who worshiped in the old space will find the renovated cathedral to be much brighter, said John Fish, chairman and chief executive of Suffolk Construction, which is doing the work.
Crews removed wood flooring and installed stone floors that are considered more durable and easier to maintain. Stained-glass windows have been cleaned, new LED lighting was installed, and oak pews were removed and refinished.
“It’s like a transformation has taken place,” Fish said.
Before this project, the cathedral hadn’t undergone major work since 1996, when the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was repainted and new maroon carpeting was installed throughout the building, the archdiocese said. The carpeting was removed during this renovation.
Private donations paid for the project, the archdiocese said.
The refurbished cathedral has new electrical wiring and fire safety systems, plus sprinklers and air conditioning. A lift and accessible ramps were installed, and the sanctuary was equipped with a digital sound system designed specifically for the cathedral.
Fish said the sanctuary was reconfigured to make worshipers feel closer to the altar where Mass is celebrated.
Other upgrades include repainted walls and columns, new kneelers for the pews, and new furniture for the sanctuary.