Repairs to Denver’s century-old basilica to cost millions

DENVER -- Towering high above Colfax Avenue on Denver’s Capitol Hill is a more than century-old landmark that is receiving a face-lift.

Delicate work is underway to ensure the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception will be around for another 100 years.

From the altar of the Gothic Rival place of worship is original marble from the early 1900s.

The archdiocese’s mother church is considered by many as Denver’s most famous religious building. It is the only basilica in Colorado.

Since its inaugural Mass 104 years ago, the cathedral has witnessed many milestones, including a papal visit in 1993.

“[The cathedral] has been at this spot since 1912,” said cathedral pastor Reverend Ron Cattany. “As a result, this is really a landmark. Things have been recycled. The original history continues to be here.”

Construction lasted nearly a decade and cost $500,000.

When the cathedral was only a year old, its west spire was struck by lightning. There was a second strike in 1998 to the east spire.

Repairs were made at the time, but never-before-seen damage from decades of wear and tear was recently discovered during routine upkeep.

Before current repair work, the façade was so weak that pieces of heavy limestone began falling to the ground.

“It was a grace because no one was hurt,” Cattany said.

In the cathedral’s basement, there are clear signs of aging that are also visible on the outside, where scaffolding now soars nearly 200 feet above ground, allowing workers to reinforce the exterior.

The Archdiocese of Denver estimates the project will cost $3.5 million and could take more than six months to complete.

Cattany expects the basilica to look much the same when finished, but the structure will be stronger and safer.

It’s an effort to keep Colorado history alive by saving one of Denver's treasured landmarks for generations to come.

Church leaders are fundraising to pay for the repairs.