AKA: Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales #1, Oakland, CA

Structure Type: built works - religious structures - cathedrals

Designers: Devlin, Charles, J.I., Architect (firm); Charles J. I. Devlin (architect)

Dates: constructed 1891-1893, demolished 1993

2 stories

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2100 Martin Luther King, Junior, Way,
Uptown, Oakland, CA 94612

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San Francisco's Roman Catholic Archbishop Patrick W. Riordan (1841-1914) created the Saint Francis Parish in Oakland on 01/29/1886, and blessed the congregation's first building on 02/27/1887. The second and larger church was made possible by a wealthy parishioner and her husband, Mary J. Canning (1830-1904) and her husband, James (1810-1892), who donated nearly $150, 000 to fund a larger and more grand Gothic Revival building. Archbishop Riordan retained his trusted architect, Charles J.I. Devlin (1858-1928), to design the building, the cornerstone of which was laid on 09/13/1891. The construction process concluded with the church's dedication on 07/09/1893.

Building History

Mary J. Canning, an Irish immigrant to Oakland, CA, provided a significant donation--$142,000---to the local Roman Catholic Church to erect a second parish church dedicated to Saint Francis de Sales. Canning had made money investing in local real estate, and, with her husband dying in 1892, she felt that such a large contribution to be appropriate in his memory. The congregation was primarily made up of Irish faithful, supervised by an Archbishop of Irish descent, whose church was designed by an architect of Irish ancestry.

Architect Charles Devlin produced a traditional cruciform plan and ornamented it with Gothic detailing. Its exterior walls were load-bearing brick, masonry material that does not perform well in earthquakes. The interior had vaulted ceiling, covered in plaster, painted white. Vaults were supported by bundle columns, whose shafts supported the ribs springing from the capitals.

This church served its parish until 1962, when Pope John XXIII formed the Diocese of Oakland; the Pope renamed this church to be a cathedral, the seat of Oakland's new bishop. On 10/17/1989, while the Bay Bridge World Series was being played nearby, the Loma Prieta Earthquake caused significant structural damage to the Gothic Revival building. Due to the cost of rebuilding, the diocese chose to demolish it in 1993 and re-erect a new cathedral later. The new Cathedral of Christ the Light opened in 2008.


According to the Historic American Buildings Survey: "In 1962, St. Francis de Sales was designated as the cathedral for the newly formed Diocese of Oakland, and it was substantially remodeled in 1966-1967 in the spirit of new attitudes toward art, architecture, and liturgy following the Second Vatican Council. It was the first cathedral in the United States to be so modified, and became well-known both for its architectural modernization and for its modern liturgy and music." (SeeHistoric American Buildings Survey, "St. Francis de Sales Church, 2100 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, Oakland, Alameda County, CA," accessed 04/04/2016.)


The Cathedral of Saint Francis de Sales was torn down in 1993 due to damage suffered in the Loma Prieta Earthquake.

PCAD id: 16636