Since July, you may have noticed some construction down on Bluff Street in front of St. Raphael's Cathedral in Dubuque.

If you didn't know, St. Raphael's Cathedral is Dubuque's oldest church. In 1833, when the land here was opened for settlement, plans began immediately for the construction of a church.

Father Samuel Mazzuchelli, a Dominican missionary arrived and helped begin the construction of the church. He used the name St. Raphael’s Church after one of the three archangels, and the cornerstone was laid in 1835.

(To put this into perspective, our city wasn't even known as Dubuque until 1837.)

This makes the parish the oldest congregation of any Christian denomination in the state of Iowa!

St. Raphael's Cathedral in Dubuque
St. Raphael's Cathedral in Dubuque

I noticed some construction going on so I made a few phone calls to see what was happening at the church. I eventually connected with Monsignor Tom Toale, pastor of the cathedral and Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

Instead of a religious lesson, he gave me more of a story in science. Since the cathedral is built in a valley below the bluff, water has been running down and seeping into the basement of the rectory and cathedral for quite some time.

A three-phase water mitigation plan was created and began in mid-July so a new drainage system could be installed.

Phase one saw the cement around the church including the parking lot and sidewalks being torn up so drainage pipes could be put in place. Cement is being laid now and some new security lights have also been installed.

Some of the new cement work at St. Raphael's Cathedral in Dubuque
Some of the new cement work at St. Raphael's Cathedral in Dubuque

Phase two will include repairs to the cathedral roof and some tuckpointing, followed by phase three with repairs to any water damage inside the church and rectory.

Father Tom said hopefully everything will be complete by the summer of 2023.

Since the cathedral is so old, I did ask when the last time any work had been done to the building. Father Tom said he's only been there for eight years, but he knows the inside of the cathedral was updated way back in 1983.

St. Raphael's Cathedral has been an iconic Dubuque landmark for almost 200 years, so it's great to see it's being taken care of.

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