Charleston cathedral gets spire after century

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The mother church for the Diocese of Charleston finally has its steeple. On Monday, the new steeple was raised at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Broad Street, more than 120 years after the cornerstone was laid.

"The cathedral is a symbol; it's the seat of the diocese, a visible sign of the presence of the Catholic Church in South Carolina," said Bishop Robert Guglielmone. "It brings back memories. I think of a lot of things -- fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers -- who wanted to see this cathedral completed."

The first cathedral burned in 1861, and it took 45 years to build again. "They really ran out of money when they built this building," said Guglielmone.

The cross is constructed out of a fiberglass composite, then covered with copper. It's built like a boat, which Father Greg Wilson says is fitting.

"The Latin word for boat is where we get the word nave, where the people of the church sit. We're all carried in the ship of the Church," said Wilson.

The fiberglass beneath the copper also makes it light, and easier to lift.

While the cathedral itself is crafted out of hand-carved brownstone, the towers that go on top are created out of high strength concrete. Not only does it make it a no-maintenance building, they'll actually be able to better withstand any hurricanes or earthquakes in the future.

Bishop Guglielmone says 100 years only seems like a long time to wait. "Some Cathedrals in Europe go three, four hundred years in construction," said Guglielmone.

Guglielmone says this steeple is a celebration of that faith in the Holy City.

The steeple will be visible from Charleston harbor and it should take about 20 years for the copper to change colors, so it should be easy to identify.

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