Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour

Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour

(Note: The following text is from a panthlet, scanned by Judith Whipple Oehler, Ed.D. [] and emailed to the Whipple Website.)

The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, built 1862-9, Minnesota, is the first Cathedral to be built as a Cathedral in the American Church. It was built by The Rt. Rev. Henry Benjamin Whipple, D. D., LL.D., First Bishop of Minnesota, as his own church.

When Bishop Whipple came to Faribault in 1859 he found a thriving Episcopal community under the leadership of The Rev. James Lloyd Breck, D. D., one of the great pioneers of this area. Dr. Breck and his colleague, The Rev. David P. Sanford, had built a parish church, The Church of The Good Shepherd, two blocks west of the present Cathedral building.

It was Dr. Breck who was instrumental in getting Bishop Whipple to settle in Faribault. Through Dr. Breck's persuasion, people of the community raised $4,000, and Alexander Faribault, a French Canadian fur trader and a Roman Catholic, donated seven acres of land. These were put to Bishop Whipple's use and accordingly, the Diocesan planned to make Faribault his "See City."

In 1862 the building of "The Bishop's Church" began. At the suggestion of Bishop Coxe, Bishop of Western New York, it was called the first "The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour." There were and have been many churches of "Our Saviour" but this was, and is, the only church of "Our Merciful Saviour." The new church was not completed until 1869. The building was financed by contributions of the citizens of Faribault, of church people throughout the Diocese, and particularly with the help of Bishop Whipple's friends in the East. In Bishop Whipple's words, "when we had means we worked, when we had none we waited on God in prayer." The cost when completed (without the Tower) was approximately $100,000, no small sum even in these days.

The building was consecrated by The Rt. Rev. Jackson Kemper, Bishop of Wisconsin, and the first Missionary Bishop of the Episcopal Church in America, in 1869. The Sentence of Consecration, with Bishop Kemper's fading signature, hangs to the arrival of Bishop Whipple. It met week days in "the old red church," the frame Church of The Good Shepherd. This was the beginning of "Shattuck Grammar School." Dr. Breck had also established a School of Divinity and when Bishop Whipple arrived, two candidates for the ministry were prepared and ready for ordination. In 1866, Bishop and Mrs. Whipple began St. Mary's Hall in their own house. All of these schools, along with the people of the parish of the Good Shepherd, worshipped in the new "Bishop's Church."

The Bishop's Cathedra or chair is in the Sanctuary just to the left of the Altar. During the seventies, (August, 1874) the Bishop was almost murdered while seated in this chair during a Sunday morning service. The would-be assassin was a disaffected and disturbed seminary student who had previously been advised by the Bishop he could not be ordained to the Ministry. While people in the Church and Choir stood transfixed with terror, this student strode from the back of the church, through the Nave and Chancel with pistol leveled. The only one who took action was Bishop Whipple. He leaped over the Altar Rail, pinning the man's arms to his side and rendering him helpless.

The Bishop's Throne, not to be confused with the Cathedra, was added in the Choir area in the 1930's. Some of the carving on the Throne was done by Anton Lang of Oberammergau. Found at the Throne is the Bishop's Crozier made of wood, ebony and ivory. In a circle of little shrines are inscribed the name of Bishop Whipple and his spiritual Fathers in God; Gregory the Great, St. Augustine of Canterbury, Archbishop Parker, Archbishop Moore, Bishops White and Kemper. The Crozier was presented to the Bishop by his clergy on the occasion of his 25th anniversary in 1884.

[Bishop Whipple?] came to Minnesota to be Chaplain to the troops at Fort Snelling. The center "Good Shepherd Window" behind the altar, is a gift of Dr. Gear. Other windows in the Chancel and Nave were gifts of parishes and friends of the Bishop. Two of the most interesting are the so-called Indian windows. One of these, (south side, third from front) depicts the present seal of the Diocese; a broken tomahawk on which is superimposed a pipe of peace. Underneath is a motto "Pax Per Sanguinem Crucis." (Peace through the blood of the Cross.) This was a gift of Christian Indians in gratitude for Bishop Whipple's help after the terrible Sioux massacre at New Ulm in 1862. At this time Bishop Whipple made a special trip to Washington. Through his intercession with President Lincoln, many innocent Indian braves sentenced to execution, were reprieved.

The Agnus Dei window (first window, south side) was given by "Indian Lambs" in memory of "other Indian lambs who are asleep." These Indian children would not be outdone by their elders. They earned money by picking and selling berries. This money they gave to Bishop Whipple for their memorial window.

The Lectern is a memorial to the first Mrs. Whipple, "the sainted Cornelia." Bishop Whipple died 16 September, 1902. His funeral was a sad and moving occasion, with two tribes of his Indian friends singing Requiem hymns in their native tongue. There was no better friend of the Indians in this territory than Bishop Whipple. That the Sioux and Chippewa, who had long been opposed to each other, would thus join their voices in Christian hope and promise indicates the greatness of this Christian pioneer. The casket was entombed immediately below the altar. Many clerical and lay dignitaries were present. After the funeral Bishop Grafton remarked to Dean Slattery, "You have buried your Bishop like a prince."

The Memorial Tower, dedicated All Saints Day, 1902, was built with the gifts of people of Faribault, throughout the Diocese, and from friends of the Bishop elsewhere in America and Great Britain. The inscription, composed by Dr. Slattery, later Bishop of Massachusetts, is "This Tower is the thanksgiving of many people for Henry Benjamin Whipple, first Bishop of Minnesota, and is the symbol before men of the supreme value of a righteous man."

The Chimes, which are played regularly were given by the second Mrs. Whipple, the first Mrs. Whipple having died some years before. (through south door, across porch) The second Mrs. Whipple left Faribault in 1910 to visit a sick brother in Italy. She never returned.

In 1934 the old Episcopal Residence, long a show place of Southern Minnesota, was torn down. In the See House there was the lovely private Oratory of the Bishop. This was moved to the Cathedral grounds and incorporated into the Cathedral building exactly as it was in the Whipple mansion. The only change was in the pews which originally ran "choir-wise." The gold plaques and Triptych were especially made for the Whipples during one of their sojourns in Italy.

The Triptych over the altar is a copy of Fra Angelica's "Virgin and Child."

The Chippendale Chair, highly prized by Bishop Whipple, belonged originally to William White, Rector of Old Christ Church in Philadelphia and the First Bishop of Pennsylvania, 1787-1836. The chair was given to Bishop Whipple by a member of Bishop White's family. There is a story extant to the effect that this chair was given to William White by the Queen, when he went to England for consecration after the Revolutionary War.

The window portraying St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a patroness of the poor, was given by Bishop Whipple in memory of his Mother. This window was moved to its present location from 1934.

(lower level)

Through the offices of Bishop Keeler the present Crypt-Chapel was built in 1934 immediately below the Cathedral Chancel.

The wooden cross on the tomb was originally atop the old Church of the Good Shepherd. The branch candleabra were used on the Cathedral Altar in Bishop Whipple's day. In 1989 a colum-barium was installed behind the tomb.

The First Cathedral in the American Church is an on-going memorial to a great religious pioneer. When you leave this Shrine say a prayer for the continuance of the work which he began.

Not copyrighted by the Whipple Website. Last modified 6/6/2001