Downtown cathedral designated as minor basilica

Photo courtesy of Tom Doran


One of the oldest operating Catholic churches in the U.S., St. Peter in Chains, in downtown Cincinnati, was recently granted the title of Minor Basilica by Pope Francis. 

The announcement of the title change was made by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr on Aug. 15. The official name for the building is now Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. It joins the 88 other basilicas in the United States. 

“For all of us who live and worship in our archdiocese, this is a great blessing and honor that has been bestowed on our cathedral church,” Schnurr said.

According to the Basilica’s website, minor basilicas are churches given a special designation by the Pope because of either historical significance, liturgical renown or architectural beauty. The process requires a thorough application. The application sent in by St. Peter in Chains was around 240 pages long. 

In the case of St. Peter in Chains, the designation was given because of the historical and cultural influence the church has had on the people of Cincinnati and the U.S. as a whole. 

The Basilica, which is located in downtown Cincinnati next to city hall, began construction in 1841 and was dedicated by Father John Baptist Decades, who was bishop at the time, in 1845. The church’s single 220-foot tall spire made out of pure white limestone was the tallest structure in the city when it was first constructed.

Mayor John Cranley brought up the historic significance of the Basilica and the contributions of Catholics in Cincinnati when he spoke at the announcement. 

“From starting the major hospitals that have cared for the sick, to feeding the hungry… the Catholic Church has provided a living testament to its core beliefs,” said Cranley. “This Basilica has served as a beautiful physical embodiment… of good works and serves as an ever-present reminder to Catholic Cincinnatians that they have a proud spiritual home.”

The Basilica is also intertwined with Xavier University’s history. When Bishop Edward Fenwick founded Xavier, the school operated out of a building next to St. Francis Xavier Church. In 1845, the parish community St. Francis Xavier Church was relocated to the now-basilica. 

Father Eric Sundrup, the pastor of Bellarmine Chapel, explained that it was great for the building to receive recognition from the Pope. 

“It’s a recognition that the Catholics in Cincinnati have a wonderful place of worship and a strong faith community,” Sundrup said. 

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also touched on the historical significance of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains. 

“The cathedral is one of the oldest operating Roman Catholic cathedrals in the United States,” DeWine said. “It is a historic place special to Cincinnati and to Ohio.”

Named in recognition of the apostle Saint Peter’s imprisonment and liberation, the Basilica was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1977 when he was known as Archbishop Karol Wojtyla.  

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter in Chains is located at Eighth and Plum Streets in downtown Cincinnati and is open daily for masses and personal worship.