Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist.

By Eric Naylor

The Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist is the headquarters for the Roman Catholic Diocese in Boise, Idaho.

The history of Catholicism in Idaho and the surrounding area begins on November 2, 1838, when Abbé F.N. Blanchet and Abbé Modeste Demers arrived at Fort Vancouver in Oregon territory. Shortly thereafter, missions began appearing all over the Oregon Territory, and since Idaho was part of the Oregon Territory at the time this included much of what would become Idaho. The first mission in Idaho was established in 1842, with the first church appearing in 1843. One of the major reasons for these missions was to preach to the local Native American tribes.

The Catholics were one of the few Christian groups in the area with a definite world leadership, one which had gone back hundreds of years. Centuries earlier, Saint Thomas Aquinas had made it clear that the Pope was the supreme head of the Church on earth, and Catholics had held to that ever since, with a hierarchy leading up to the Pope and several other positions of authority beneath him. The missions in Idaho were, naturally, usually begun by men in positions of authority within the Church, usually Bishops, but traveling through the terrain and weather in Idaho was often difficult. Nevertheless, Catholic communities in Boise and in the rest of Idaho managed to establish a firm presence which continued after President Abraham Lincoln made Idaho a territory in 1863, and after Statehood was granted to Idaho on July 3, 1890. In 1893, Bishop Alphonse Glorieux became the head of the Catholic Diocese in Boise. Bishop Glorieux wished to construct a new Cathedral in what would eventually become Downtown Boise (not that he or anyone else knew at the time that it would become downtown). Construction of the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist began under his direction in 1906. The Cathedral was built in stages, so Bishop Glorieux was able to hold Mass in the basement of the church even while it was still under construction. Unfortunately, however, he would not live to see it completed. Building of the Cathedral was finally finished by Bishop Gorman and dedicated Easter Sunday of 1921. Today it is still the center of Catholicism in Boise. The Cathedral is decorated on the inside with a beautifully adorned dome ceiling, and stained glass windows on either side walking in depicting scenes from the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. The Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist is located at the following address:

775 N. 8th Street Boise, ID 83702-8926.


Primary Sources: Saint Thomas Aquinas: Theological Texts. Translated by Thomas Gilby. Durham: The Labyrinth Press, 1955. Secondary Sources: Bradley, Rt. Rev. Cyprian, O.S.B. and Kelly, Most Rev. Edward, D.D., PH.D. History of the Diocese of Boise: 1863-1953. 2 vols. Boise: Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise, 1953. “History.” Cathedral of St John the Evangelist. (Accessed November 19, 2011).