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A Brief History Of

The Cathedral of the Incarnation is legacy rich in history and tradition.  Dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century, Bishop Thomas Sebastian Byrne acquired the property near Vanderbilt University in 1902.  At that time St. Mary’s of the Seven Sorrows was the Cathedral; however Bishop Byrne envisioned a larger cathedral to the west of the city due to the parish’s growth.  St. Mary’s continues to operate on the corner of 5th Avenue and Charlotte in downtown Nashville.

In 1907 the rectory was the first building to be started in the complex and was completed in March of 1908. The next step was to begin work on the Cathedral School (now known as St. Albert’s Hall).  The first floor of the school was the pro-Cathedral and used as the parish church until the main church was completed. Construction on the church itself began in 1910 with the erection of the bell tower.  After four-and-a-half years, the building was completed.  Dedication of the Cathedral of the Incarnation was on July 26, 1914.  Since that date the Cathedral has served the bishop and people of the Catholic Church in Tennessee with dignity and grace.

The name “Cathedral” is derived from the Greek “cathedra” which means “chair.”  The cathedra is the established seat of the bishop in the mother church of the diocese.  This chair is the symbol of the bishop’s authority and from this seat, wearing his miter and holding the crozier (pastoral staff) he is both teacher and pastor who will guide the journey of the faithful in faith, hope, and charity.  The back of the chair has the coat-of-arms of Bishop Mark Spalding, our current bishop.

From its dedication in 1914, the Cathedral of the Incarnation has stood as the elegant center of the Diocese of Nashville, Tennessee.  The cathedral belongs to 70,000 Catholics of the diocese and serves as a place of ceremony and celebration. The Cathedral of the Incarnation is also a parish church and as such it is home to its parishioners and a welcoming place for all visitors.

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