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This is a project our company has been working on for the last couple years in Knoxville, TN. It is the new seat of the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville, which serves all of eastern Tennessee, and was dedicated this weekend. Here is a recording of the Mass and Rite of Dedication for those that would like to breeze through all four hours and 44 minutes of it. More than 100 priests, 21 bishops and archbishops, and five cardinals participated in the dedication ceremony.
The new cathedral increases the seating capacity of the old facility from 580 to 1,358 worshipers and square footage from a previous 7,500 to 28,000. The total project cost was $30.8 million, has 100 pews, and 100 seats in the choir loft. Ceiling height in the nave is 50 feet with the dome soaring 144 feet above the floor at the peak. There were 111 concrete piers drilled into bedrock. Construction took over 400 tons of steel and over 5,000 cubic yards of concrete. There are estimated to be 41 miles of wood blocking and trim, 20,000 pieces of Indiana limestone, 300,000 Roman style bricks, and 50,000 concrete blocks.
This project was extremely complicated, detailed, and unique. Definitely a “once in a lifetime” type of job. The completion date was literally “set in stone” as the cornerstone, which was installed around two years ago, was already engraved with the date of March 3, 2018, as the opening! As you can imagine there were many difficulties bringing this project in on time, from weather to fire marshals, etc.
The final unforeseen hurdle, however, was an event about which many of you had heard but probably wouldn’t have guessed its relevance here. Billy Graham died! Many of the church officials involved in the dedication ceremony, including the Cardinal from St. Patrick’s in New York City and a representative from Rome, decided to attend Graham’s funeral. It was feared that the scheduling conflict for the weekend might require the entire event at the Cathedral to be rescheduled to possibly next fall. Thankfully, since the funeral actually took place on Friday, the dignitaries were flown from NC to Knoxville after that service in order to clear the final hurdle and make the dedication a reality.
All of this was more like a vision than reality when the project first began.
Here we were pouring some of the floor slabs. On either side, you can see tilt panels stacked up that are cast on site then lifted into place to make the circular wall openings for large windows on the dome and main building.
Here is Ricochet notable @titustechera when he was visiting and braved the climb to the top of the dome to get a couple of pictures during construction!
There was quite a bit of pressure as that date neared and dignitaries were scheduled to attend from around the country if not the world. We actually poured the last section of sidewalk early last Friday morning in time to strip the forms around noon and the landscaper following in the afternoon with plants and sod to be ready for that evening’s services. That is seriously cutting it close!
Believe me when I tell you it isn’t easy to get from here:
To here, in a couple days:
One of the highlights of the Cathedral is the central dome that rises 144 feet from the floor and can be seen from miles around. For those who are interested, here is a timelapse of the dome’s construction. It has a gilded cross at its peak and takes inspiration from the Florence Cathedral. In my opinion, the inside of the dome is very impressive, depicting Jesus and the disciples.
The site work was what I have recently been concentrating on finishing up for the dedication but the inside is what will take your breath away. Here are a few more pictures I took as the finishing touches were underway.
I would be remiss not to point out details like this polished black concrete with Italian marble laid into it. This is one of the many intricate details of this project that made it both frustrating and very fulfilling. Note that the marble has 1/16″ grout joints. (now go look at your bathroom tile)
The Baptismal Font
The Dedication Stone blessed by Pope Francis on October 14, 2015.
This paint effect was made using the same color paint but in gloss overlaid using a stencil pattern.
As I said, even through all the delays and challenges to get everything to come together, there is a definite sense of accomplishment among all the contractors who worked on this project and pride in how it turned out.