In Your Midst
The Cathedral's New Courtyard
March 2006

A beautiful new gathering space for the Cathedral parish

    The concept of a courtyard gathering space in the formerly little-used area between the Cathedral and the rectory goes back to the renovation and restoration of 1994. In 2006, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors to the Centennial Campaign and the family and friends of the late Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy, this dream has become a reality. The new courtyard is wheelchair accessible and also provides—for the first time—accessible entrances to the Cathedral Bookstore, the Rectory, and the west landing of the Cathedral. The courtyard affords a stunning view of the city and of the beautiful south side of the Cathedral. Water flows from a source stone at the Cathedral’s south entrance to a pool at the foot of the image of the Virgin and Child. The image of Sedes Sapientiae, Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, is the anchor and center of the beautiful new space. The courtyard will be named for Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy. A blessing will take place after the 10:00am Mass on Sunday, May 21.

The old courtyard was crowded with a bulky ramp entrance and an unused walled garden west of the Cathedral Bookstore. The ramp entrance was rerouted around the south transept of the Cathedral, the garden wall came down, and a large open space looking out on the city was created. In Stephen Lee’s early drawing (left) the courtyard is truly the heart of the cathedral grounds, a gathering space as well as a processional route. At right, the courtyard is under construction in Summer 2005.

Before the source stone could be carved, a mock-up was created out of Styrofoam to replicate the finished work. This is an essential part of the design process, not only to confirm the scale of the stone, but also to see the work in situ. At left, the design team experiments with the flow of the water. At right, architect Stephen Lee. The 9,500 pound stone was the gift of Charles and Wenjun Ragen.

Shortly after Christmas, Columbia Street was blocked off to accommodate an enormous crane which “flew” the statue of Mary and the source stone over the roof of the rectory to drop them in place in the courtyard. At right, the completed water feature: water flows from the source stone down a rill, concluding in a pool at the foot of the statue of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom.

Once the stone was in place, there was a huge amount of finishing work still to be done on the stone rill. Craftsmen worked late into the night to meet their deadline. Then the lighting and water flow had to be calibrated in the midst of Seattle’s near record-breaking rainfall. In the center, the sculpted cross, the work of local artist Joe McDonnell, is fixed to the canopy of the Cathedral Bookstore.

The Courtyard will also serve as a processional route for a variety of liturgies throughout the year. At the celebration of Santo Niño—Holy Child, youth servers lead the image of the Child Jesus through the new courtyard into the Cathedral Hall. At right, the illuminated courtyard by night.

Text, captions, and photos by Stephen Lee and Maria Laughlin.

Back to the March 2006 Issue of In Your Midst