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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception serves as the seat of the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

The Cathedral of Immaculate Conception serves as the seat of the Diocese of Lake Charles and is one of seven consecrated Catholic cathedrals in Louisiana. A massive fire in 1910 destroyed all the Catholic church properties on this site: the Immaculate Conception Church, a convent, and a boys’ school. The ew Orleans architectural firm of Favrot and Livaudais, hired to rebuild the complex, selected the Italian Romanesque style for a new church and gave it a cruciform plan with transepts almost as long as the nave and a polygonal apse. All the openings are round-arched, from the entry portal with its compound columns and voussoirs to the windows and their brick surrounds. Round-arched corbel tables form blind arcades along the eaves. A five-story bell tower with multiple arched openings marks one corner of the façade.

The cathedral is constructed of dark red bricks joined with a rosy-colored mortar that imparts a vibrant glow. The interior has a short three-bay nave that is divided into three aisles by columns with elaborately floriated capitals and covered by a shallow-curved vault. During a remodeling in the 1930s, an image of the Virgin in Majesty was painted on the apse half dome, and stenciled designs were added to the chancel walls and the intrados of the nave arches. The biblical scenes in the Viennese stained glass windows have a lavender-blue background that gives the interior its principal luminous coloration.

A two-story brick rectory and garage are part of the original design, but a one-story wing and connecting arcade were added in 1973 by the Lake Charles firm of Dunn and Quinn. These later additions emulate the style of the church, but their crisp-edged bricks stand out from the weathered ones of the original building.

When Pope John Paul II created the Diocese of Lake Charles in 1980, carving it out of the Diocese of Lafayette, Immaculate Conception was designated a cathedral.

Adapted from Karen Kingsley’s Buildings of Louisiana, part of the Buildings of the United States series commissioned by the Society of Architectural Historians (www.sah.org) and published by Oxford University Press.