Merry Christmas and a happy New Year from the Hertaus family to you and yours. Legislative action will pick up after we flip the calendar and move closer to the 2016 session starting in March but, for now, let's take some time to enjoy the holy season.
Which begs this week's Capitol Trivia Question: Which of St. Paul's two most iconic buildings stands taller on the horizon, the Cathedral of Saint Paul or the Minnesota State Capitol? As it turns out, the answer to that question includes an interesting back story.
Both buildings were constructed in the early 1900s, this being the fourth version of the Cathedral and the state's third Capitol. The first Capitol burned in 1881 and the second was completed in 1883, only to be almost immediately deemed too small and leading to construction of our current building. New Cathedrals have been built to accommodate congregational growth, evolving from a small log chapel in 1841 to the majestic house of worship that stands today.
Work on the present-day Capitol began in 1896, and construction was completed in 1905. It was designed by Cass Gilbert, modeled after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Our Capitol has the second-largest unsupported marble dome in the world (only behind St. Peter's) and stands 223 feet tall.
As the Capitol was under construction, Archbishop John Ireland decided to build another Cathedral in St. Paul. In June 1905, just months after Minnesota's Capitol opened, he hired Emmanuel Louis Masquery to design a new Cathedral of Saint Paul and the plan was approved in 1906. This included moving out of downtown St. Paul, where the two previous Cathedrals were located, and selecting a site on a nearby bluff named St. Anthony Hill.
As legend has it, this commanding perch can be seen as "permitting the House of God to look down, literally and symbolically, on moneychangers (as represented by downtown St. Paul) and Caesar (as represented by the state capitol)."
So, with its copper dome reaching 306 feet into the sky, the Saint Paul Cathedral is one of the most visible landmarks in the city – and 83 feet taller than the Capitol. You can look upward to the Cathedral from our legislative offices on the Capitol grounds and something about performing that exercise brings things into perspective.
One final interesting anecdote from this story that proves some things never change, even from one century to the next: Masquery was provided a $1 million construction budget for the Cathedral. Around the same time, government spent $4.5 million to build its Capitol less than one mile away!
Look for more legislative news next time. Until then, enjoy the Christmas and New Year holidays and please be safe out on the roads.
Rep. Jerry Hertaus