And memories. I'm not Catholic, and I don't think I've ever been in the church, although I used to walk past it on the way home from school back in the day. I liked what Jack Holzhueter, a retired researcher and writer for the Wisconsin Historical Society, presented at a forum on the building's fate after the fire.
St. Raphael is the only church in Madison integrally tied to the city's original plat of development, he wrote. Like other great buildings and public spaces in cities around the world, St. Raphael was adopted by the community, which loves the building and looks to it for a sense of neighborhood.Unfortunately, this landmark never achieved offficial landmark designation (a last minute effort last year was too little, too late), and so the Diocese was free to tear it down. They took down the steeple last June, and then demolition of the burned-out shell of St. Raphael's Cathedral started last July. Now all that remains of the former cathedral of the Madison Diocese are some remnants of limestone wall, a raggedy grass lawn where a cathedral loved by many once stood, and a new coat of graffiti. (In the background is the roof line of the rectory that used to be adjacent to the cathedral.) The Diocese has announced they plan to build a new cathedral at some point, but because of economic conditions they have not started a fund-raising campaign yet.
"Thus, Madisonians and residents of the greater metropolitan area have come to 'own' St. Raphael's, though the vast majority of them have never set foot into the place. The diocese may own the structure; the clergy, religious and parishioners may imbue it with spiritual and sentimental attachments, but the wider public puts it into a context of place and space. The wider public endows it with its status as a landmark," Holzhueter wrote.