Cathedral’s new bells hoisted into place as steeple construction progresses

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston, bells, bell tower, steeple, construction, renovation

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Charleston, bells, bell tower, steeple, construction, renovationCHARLESTON—The bell tower, complete with bells, was lifted into place at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Nov. 16.

Jamie Kilgallen, executive director of construction operations for Hightower Construction, said this is the first visible sign of the cathedral’s new steeple.

As the steel frame holding the bells rose into the sky, their bronze finish glinted in the sunlight. The largest, Maria Stella Maris, holds the place of honor on top, with the two smaller bells, St. Finbar and St. Therese, nestled below.

Once the bells reached their new perch atop the Cathedral, Father Gregory Wilson, rector pro tempore, gave them an honorary ring, followed by others who took a turn.

The first official ringing of the bells will be at Christmas, followed by more musical notes on New Year’s Eve, Kilgallen said.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone blessed the three new bells during a special Mass on Oct. 15. They were created by the Christoph Paccard Bell Foundry in Annecy, France.

The bell tower is the second of four sections that will comprise the steeple. The first section completed was the support structure, and next up will be the steeple and 8-foot-tall copper cross for the top.

After the construction crew secured the bells, the roof and walls were lifted into place. They are made of precast structural concrete to match the exterior. “This will be the highlight for awhile,” Kilgallen said.

So far, repair work on the brownstone has been completed on three of the four sides, and he said they hope to have the remaining scaffolding on the front of the cathedral removed by Christmas.

Kilgallen said restoration of the front took a little longer than expected because that is where the majority of the decorative elements are located.

Once completed, the Cathedral and bell tower will be 168 feet tall.