Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph, San Jose is a large Roman Catholic Church located in Downtown San Jose. The minor basilica is the cathedral for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose in California. The basilica is named for Saint Joseph, patron saint of the Universal Church.
As the oldest non-mission parish in California, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph has been serving the people of San Jose for over 200 years since 1803.
The original St. Joseph’s Church was built on the site of the current basilica in 1803, and was the first non-mission parish built in California. The original adobe structure was damaged by earthquakes in 1818 and 1822, and a new adobe church was built from 1835 to 1846. The second church was severely damaged by the 1868 Hayward earthquake, and work on the third church began in 1869.
The third church was destroyed by fire in 1875, and a temporary fourth church was built a few blocks away while the fifth and current church was being constructed. The fifth church was dedicated by Joseph Alemany, Archbishop of San Francisco, in 1877 while construction continued. The current portico was completed in 1884, and the large dome was finished in 1885.
In 1981, a major renovation project was begun at the church, which was to become the cathedral for the new Roman Catholic Bishop of San Jose. In 1985, the church was elevated to a cathedral, pending completion of the restoration in 1990. It replaced Saint Patrick Proto-Cathedral Parish, located a few blocks away, as the cathedral of the diocese. The cathedral was made a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph, is listed as a California Historical Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Architecture of Cathedral of Saint Joseph, San Jose
The story of Saint Joseph’s began in 1777 when Mission Santa Clara was founded and the adjacent Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe became the first civil settlement in Alta California.
A small adobe church was established in the village and dedicated to Saint Joseph in 1803, making it the first parish in California.
- 1777 – El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe founded
- 1803 – First St. Joseph Church built at the corner of San Fernando and Market Streets and administered by Franciscan priests
- 1818 – Earthquakes crack walls
- 1822 – Severe earthquake partially damages roof
- 1835 – Building begins on second adobe structure
- 1846 – Second church is blessed
- 1851 – Archbishop Alemany entrusts parish to Jesuit priests
- 1868 – Severe earthquake damages church
- 1869 – Construction begins on third church
- 1875 – Third church is destroyed by fire
- 1875 – Temporary church built on the corner of San Pedro and San Fernando Streets
- 1876 – Cornerstone is laid for fifth and present church (fourth church on site), March 19, the Feast of Saint Joseph
- 1877 – Dedication of fifth and present structure – April 22
- 1884 – Portico is completed
- 1885 – Soaring dome completed
- 1886 – Odell pipe organ installed
- 1927 – Golden Jubilee of existing church
- 1928 – Mural work of Italian artist Father Luigi Sciocchetti is completed
- 1952 – Major restoration project for 75th anniversary
- 1977 – Centennial celebration of present church; Bicentennial of San José
- 1981 – Inauguration of the Diocese of San Jose
- Bishop Pierre DuMaine installed as bishop of the Diocese of San José
- 1985 – Vatican approves St. Joseph Church as Cathedral of the Diocese of San Jose, pending restoration
- 1990 – Restoration completed and St. Joseph is dedicated as a Cathedral
- 1997 – Saint Joseph Cathedral receives Basilica status from the Vatican
- 1999 – Bishop Patrick Joseph McGrath installed as the second bishop of the Diocese of San José.
- 2003 – Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph commemorates its Bicentennial
- 2016 – New statues of St. Joseph and St Clare blessed and installed at the Cathedral Basilica.
- 2019 – Bishop Oscar Cantú installed as the third bishop of the Diocese of San José.
In 1985 the Vatican approved the request for Saint Joseph’s Church to become the cathedral for the Diocese of San Jose, provided it could be fully restored and meet Vatican II liturgical changes. In March of 1987, the church was closed and underwent an extensive and thorough restoration. On November 4, 1990, it was reopened and dedicated as the – Cathedral of Saint Joseph.
The roof of St. Joseph’s with its central dome, cupolas, finials, and towers, remains one of the building’s most striking features – when prior to restoration, it had been one of its most perplexing problems.
Time, coupled with weather and sporadic, inadequate maintenance contributed to the deterioration of the roof, resulting in severe water damage to the dome murals, ceiling, and wall decorations.
At one point in time, the roof was covered with a black asphalt material and then covered with a silver painted tin roof overlay.
Architect Bryan Clinch’s original design called for a copper roof. Copper was also used on the central dome, four cupola domes, and two tower domes
The ribs of the dome, towers, and cupolas were replaced with a lightweight composite concrete material tinted to match the façade.
Major Areas of Restoration
- Roof totally reinforced
- Outside walls reinforced with concrete and steel rebar extending from the eaves to 19 feet below ground level
- Epoxy injected between bricks for added strength
- All ceiling and wall trusses reinforced
- Steel stairways added in both towers
- 60% of interior plaster replaced
- New oak flooring throughout
- 16 new chandeliers built and installed
- Thorough cleaning and basic repair of all stained glass windows
- Extensive electrical repairs and new sound system
- Installation of new ― no load sprinkler system
- Security alarm system
- All paintings and murals cleaned and repainted
- All ceiling and wall decorations cleaned, repaired, and painted
- Organ disassembled and refurbished
- New furnishings designed and installed
- New stained glass windows designed, created, and installed
- Complete painting of building interior and exterior
- New plaza area constructed behind Cathedral.
The Odell Pipe Organ
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph Odell Tracker pipe organ was built in 1886 by the J.H. & C.S. Odell Co. in Yonkers, New York, is one of only four Odells of this style in the United States and the only surviving Odell instrument in its original condition on the West Coast.
Discover some fascination information about the Cathedral’s Odell Tracker pipe organ:
- Designed specifically for this church
- Measures 22 ft. high by 18 ft. wide by 10 ft. deep
- Contains 40,000 wooden parts
- Consists of 27 ranks of 60 pipes (equal to 1,620 individual musical instruments), 21 stops distributed over two keyboard divisions and a pedal division.
- Stops at swell division are under expression.
- Completely restored from 1987-1991 by Edward Stout and his assistant, Richard Taylor, curators of this instrument since 1968. Mr. Stout did some repairs on the organ during the 1964 church restoration project. Dr. Philip Simpson, professor of music at San Jose State University supervised the organ’s care from the 1950s to 1964.
Stained Glass Windows
There are a total of 39 stained glass windows throughout the Cathedral. The most visible, are the 21 that surround the transept walls.
The 3 windows in the east wall of the east transept are new (installed in 1990). The 18 primary windows vary in dates of installation from the late 1800s up to 1920.
The remaining 16 were created in Munich of fine mouth-blown Bavarian glass made by a formula that dates to the 11th century and are essentially “fade proof”.
Unfortunately, this art form is no longer practiced. Judge Myles P. O’Connor and his wife, Amanda, commissioned these windows while visiting in Bavaria.
Feast Day – 19th March
On March 19, 1876, the feast day of St. Joseph, the cornerstone was laid, and in April of the following year the church opened in a dedication ceremony performed by Joseph Alemany, Archbishop of San Francisco
Church Visiting Time
80 S Market Street, San Jose,
California, CA 95113, United States
Tel : +1 408-283-8100
How to reach the Cathedral
San Jose International Airport also known as Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport in San Jose, California, United States is the nearby airport to the Cathedral.
Santa Clara Station in San Jose, California, United States is the nearby Light Rail Station to the Cathedral.