About the Cathedral
The first Catholic chapel in Alexandria was built in 1817. It was the first church of any denomination in the city. St. Francis Xavier Church was built in 1834 on Front Street. It was located under the present levee between Bellier and Xavier Streets. Although churches of other denominations were built in the town in the ensuing years, they were all destroyed during the Civil War. St. Francis Xavier was the only church left standing in 1864 when Alexandria was burned by the Union Army.
In 1895, Reverend Leonard Menard envisioned a larger place of worship. The cornerstone of the present building was laid on December 3, 1895, the feast day of St. Francis Xavier. A few weeks later, on December 30, 1895, the original church burned. The first Mass was celebrated in the Gothic Revival structure on November 27, 1899. Sand for mortar was dug from the Red River bed and floors of native pine were laid. In 1907 the belfry was added; the clock was installed in 1908. The Rectory, first built in 1896, was extensively renovated in 1930.
St. Francis Academy, erected in 1897, was remodeled and enlarged in 1907. Bishop Cornelius Van de Ven petitioned The Vatican to transfer the See City from Natchitoches to centrally located Alexandria. Thus, on August 6, 1910, St. Francis Xavier Church was designated the Cathedral. These three buildings are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Cathedral Complex.
St. Francis Xavier Cathedral boasts some of the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the state of Louisiana. The rose windows in the apex of the transept are the largest in the state, and the main altar is hand-carved walnut.
We are very proud of our new pipe organ. The opus 2218, 3 manual, 48 rank Reuter Organ, in memory of the late Charles P. Greco, Bishop of Alexandria, was dedicated in the year 2004.
RENOVATIONS COMPLETED IN XAVIER HALL — NOVEMBER 2013