(Bardstown, Kentucky) The Vatican has named St. Joseph Proto Cathedral a minor basilica. Today, the term basilica is a special designation given by the Holy Father to certain Churches because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance, or significance as a places of worship.
The Vatican grants this honor to Churches that have a special historical significance, but these Churches must also be dedicated to the liturgical life of their diocese according to the standards established by the Vatican II. St. Joseph is now the third basilica in Kentucky. (The other two minor basilicas in Kentucky are the Cathedral in Covington and the Abbey Church at Gethsemani.) There are ____ basilicas in the United States.
St. Joseph Proto Cathedral was constructed between 1816 and 1819 under the first bishop of the Diocese of Bardstown, Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget. As the cathedral for this diocese, St. Joseph was the mother Church to the first inland diocese in the nation. Today the territory of this early diocese has been divided into forty-four dioceses and archdioceses, including Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri; and Cincinnati, Ohio. The Diocese of Bardstown was transferred to Louisville in 1841.
In 1934 the U.S. Congress recognized St. Joseph Church in the Historic American Buildings Survey. It also is included as a Kentucky Landmark by the Kentucky Heritage Commission. Today more than 25,000 visitors from nearly every state of the union tour the Church each year, and St. Joseph is one of the most prominent tourist attractions of Central Kentucky.
In 1995 the Holy See honored the proto cathedral when Bishop Charles G. Maloney, the retired auxiliary Bishop of Louisville, was named the Titular Bishop of Bardstown.
The Church also houses several pieces of artwork from artists of the seventeenth century to the present. The most significant of these paintings is The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew by Mattea Preti, who died in 1699. This painting is valued at $300,000. Outside of the J. B. Speed Art Museum in Louisville, the art collection of St. Joseph Proto Cathedral represents the most important collection of the works of the old European masters in the state of Kentucky.
Today, St. Joseph Proto Cathedral is a thriving Catholic parish with more than 4,900 individuals and 1,700 families. It has an elementary school with 500 students, a secondary school with 325 students, and numerous other educational, service, and liturgical programs and ministries.
According to Father Bill Medley, pastor, the Vatican honored this parish because of its historical significance, its art collection, and its commitment to excellent liturgy that adheres to the standards of the Second Vatican Council. “This is a great honor both for the parish and for the Archdiocese, “ he said.
Minor basilicas have several responsibilities. These include:
· Promotion of the study of the documents of the Holy Father,
especially those dealing with the liturgy.
Media Release - August 27, 2001