All Saints’ Cathedral is the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee. The church building, however, was originally designed and built for Olivet Congregational Church by the renowned architect Edward Townsend Mix. Construction commenced in 1868. During this same time the Episcopal Diocese of Wisconsin was making plans to build a cathedral church for the diocese. As his last official act, Bishop Jackson Kemper—the first Bishop of Wisconsin–laid the cornerstone for a church on the corner of Juneau Avenue and Prospect Avenue on Nov. 1, 1869. Construction of the foundation started, but, was halted as the diocese raised more funds for the project. During the construction of the current cathedral building, Olivet ceased to exist and the congregation merged with another church in the area. The Diocese of Wisconsin then purchased the newly-built structure to fulfill its goal. The cathedral was dedicated on All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, 1873, by Bishop William Armitage. Today there are three Wisconsin Episcopal dioceses, so All Saints’ is now, therefore, in the of the Diocese of Milwaukee. The property where the cathedral was originally to be located at the corner of Juneau and Prospect reverted to the mortgagor and prominent Milwaukeean, Judge Jason Downer. Judge Downer built an elegant Victorian mansion on the site. The original cathedral cornerstone was incorporated into its foundation and can still be seen today. There has been continual worship at All Saints’ Cathedral since 1873. Built in the gothic revival style, the building’s exterior is clad in iconic Milwaukee Cream City Brick. A project to replace the building’s original diamond-patterned stained glass windows was commenced in 1892. More than 50 classically designed stained glass windows ~ almost all by English makers ~ were installed. Six of the original windows still remain. All the stained glass windows are of saints, save for the south rondel window depicting Christ the King. The interior of the church has undergone several renovations to suit the liturgical style of various periods. The current configuration is in the English cathedral style, with the choir located between altar and the congregation. The centerpiece of the cathedral is the Sienna marble high altar and stunning triptych crafted in the Italian Gothic style and installed in 1922. More than 100 saints of the church, as well as an uncounted numbers of angels, are depicted in the windows, statuary and artwork through the cathedral.
The first sense visitors will experience at All Saints’ is smell, as the palpable scent of the 140 incense that are offered during services hangs in the air and carries with it all of the prayers that have been offered in this historic church. Visitor’s sight will be indulged as well, when their eyes are drawn to the stunning triptych at the high altar and the beautiful stained glass windows that depict over 100 saints of the church. Take time at the Blessed Sacrament Chapel or the Lady Chapel to seek a few minutes of spiritual sanctuary in the church. Guided tours, self-guided walking tours, and exhibits will be offered at this site, with docents available to answer questions throughout the cathedral.