Discovering Art and History at St. James Cathedral


A tour inside the Diocese of Orlando’s Cathedral, St. James, is a biblical walk through the New Testament told through the beauty of artistic masterpieces.


A tour inside the Diocese of Orlando’s Cathedral, St. James, is a biblical walk through the New Testament told through the beauty of artistic masterpieces.

Jessica Hurtado, 16, and her youth group attended a guided tour of the cathedral and discovered the wood carvings, murals and stained glass windows, plus she learned the church’s history, which dates back to the 19th century.

“I did not previously know how St. James came to be,” said Hurtado, parishioner of St. James. “It’s interesting to learn how the original church was built and the different stages it went through to become the cathedral it is today.”

tour420151015Steve Bucklin, director of adult faith formation, led the tour on Sept. 30 and he directed the student’s attention to one of the first items that is seen as people enter the church: the Bishop’s coat of arms.

“Does anyone know what the Bishop’s motto is? ‘God before me God with me,’” he answered for the group since no one guessed the right answer.

The bishop’s coat of arms is prominently featured because the cathedral occupies a special place in the worship life of the Diocese of Orlando. From the cathedral, the bishop is called by the pope to lead and serve the local Church. Every new priest ordained for a lifetime of service to the Church of Orlando lies in supplication before the altar of the cathedral and receives the indelible mark of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The Cathedra is the seat at which the Bishop presides over the sacred liturgies of the Church. “The word Cathedral comes from the word Cathedra which means the house of the seat of the bishop, so there is only one bishop’s seat in the Diocese of Orlando and it is here at St. James,” said Bucklin. The cathedra is a symbol of the bishop’s teaching authority in the Catholic Church. Another chair is placed near the altar for use by any other presider who is not the Bishop of Orlando.

The students also learned about the carved symbols that adorn the front of the ambo. They represent each of the four Gospel writers.

“It is important because this is where we proclaim the Word of God,” said Bucklin.

The altar is located in the center of the sanctuary. Consecrated by the Bishop through the Rite of Dedication of an Altar, it is the place where the Sacrifice of the Cross is made present under sacramental signs. Around this table, Catholics gather to be fed by Christ who is wholly and entirely present to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. An image of the Paschal Lamb is engraved onto the front of the altar which symbolizes Christ’s passion, death and resurrection for the redemption of the world.

Above the Altar, six murals were hand painted and depict important scenes in the life of Jesus and the apostles.

tour320151015“The Pentecost mural is located in the Sanctuary dome and was designed and hand painted by Renata Rohn of Rohn and Associates from Pennsylvania,” said Bucklin. “The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, is descending upon Mary and the Apostles 50 days after Easter. The seven rings or power emanating from the dove represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that each Catholic receives at their Confirmation.”

Dozens of symbols and pieces of art are showcased throughout the cathedral. Along the outer borders of the wooden pews, the symbol of the scalloped shell is engraved. The shell is the traditional symbol of St. James because he was a fisherman in Galilea.

tour220151015Located in the nave and eastern transept of the cathedral, there are 20 stained glass windows depicting the 20 mysteries of the rosary. On the second floor of the cathedral is the choir loft where the largest of the 3,709 pipes make up the Cathedral’s Wicks organ. These pipes are contained in 5 wind chests that were constructed during the cathedral’s 2010 renovation.

Youth Ministry leader Nancy Webb provided her students with the chance to learn more about their parish and to further explore the Church’s teachings.

“It is very important for the youth of the Cathedral to know the rich history and tradition of their parish,” said Webb. “There are so many signs and symbols of our faith right in front of them. It is always exciting to hear them explain this to their friends that are not Catholic.”

It turns out that a simple, educational tour of St. James Cathedral has already left a few of Webb’s students inspired by all its meaning and beauty.

“One of the youth that attended the cathedral tour was not Catholic,” said Webb. “After the tour he asked if he could become more involved with the Youth Ministry at the cathedral.”

Tours are scheduled for groups by appointment. For more information on future tours at St. James Cathedral, please contact Steve Bucklin at 407-422-2005.