St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in Memphis: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral
(Gailor Memorial)
Basic information
Location Memphis, Tennessee
Affiliation Episcopal Church in the United States of America (Anglican)
District Diocese of West Tennessee, Province IV
Year consecrated 1858 (as a parish), 1871 (as a cathedral)
Ecclesiastical status Cathedral church of West Tennessee since 1983. Cathedral of the old statewide Diocese of Tennessee, 1871-1983. Organized in 1857.
Leadership Rt. Rev. Don Johnson, Bishop of West Tennessee; the Very Rev. William E. "Andy" Andrews III, Dean
Architectural description
Architect(s) William Halsey Wood (original plans) and L.M. Weathers
Architectural type Late Gothic Revival
Architectural style Early English period
Direction of facade South
Year completed 1926

St. Mary's is the cathedral church of the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee, located near downtown Memphis, Tennessee. It was founded as a semi-rural Episcopal mission in 1857. It became cathedral of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee in 1871 and later the cathedral of the Diocese of West Tennessee with the creation of the three dioceses within Tennessee in 1983. Construction of its present Gothic Revival structure began in 1898 and was completed in 1926, when the parenthetical phrase "(Gailor Memorial)" was appended to the cathedral's formal name in honor of the Rt. Rev. Thomas Frank Gailor, Bishop of Tennessee and president of the National Council of the Episcopal Church.


Martyrs and the cathedral

St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral is closely associated with two episodes of martyrdom known throughout the world. Both episodes dramatically reduced the size of St. Mary's congregation, either through death or controversy.


Constance and her companions

Memphis suffered periodic epidemics of yellow fever, a mosquito-borne viral infection, throughout the 19th century. The worst of the epidemics occurred in the summer of 1878, when 5,150 Memphians died. Five years earlier, a group of Episcopal nuns from the recently formed Sisters of St. Mary (now the Community of St. Mary) arrived in Memphis to take over operation of the St. Mary's School for Girls, which was relocated to the cathedral site.[1]. When the 1878 epidemic struck, a number of priests and nuns (both Protestant and Catholic), doctors, and even prostitutes stayed behind to tend to the sick and dying. The Episcopal nuns' superior, Sister Constance, three other Episcopal nuns, and two Episcopal priests are known throughout the Anglican Communion as " Constance and Her Companions" or the "Martyrs of Memphis". Added to the Episcopal Church's Lesser Feasts and Fasts in 1981, their feast day (September 9) commemorates their sacrifices.

A traditional Anglican prayer memorializes the Martyrs in this way:

We give thee thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the Heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and the dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death. Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ...
Episcopal nuns and priests who died from the epidemic

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The second historic/tragic event that St. Mary's Cathedral attempted to mitigate was the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The day after King's death, Memphis clergy from many churches and synagogues met at the cathedral. In an impromptu move, Dean William Dimmick (later Bishop of Northern Michigan) took up the cathedral's processional cross and led the assembled ministers down Poplar Avenue to City Hall to petition Mayor Henry C. Loeb to end the labor standoff that King was in town to help negotiate. Nearly half of the cathedral's membership eventually left in protest of Dimmick's gesture of racial unity.


The cathedral's membership peaked at around 900 in the 1960s. Membership in 2007 is reported around 400, with three-fourths of the congregation older than age 50 and half older than 60. Weekly worship attendance averages 140, The Commercial Appeal reported in July 2007.


The cathedral announced in July 2007 that its annual budget was being reduced by $150,000. Funds from St. Mary's $3.2 million endowment had been used to make up a budget shortfall that stemmed from a decline in contributions attributed to a shrinking and aging membership.

Bishop Don Johnson of the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee addressed rumors about the cathedral's financial situation. Johnson told The Commercial Appeal, "There's a myth that the cathedral is crashing and burning, but it's not going under, it's not closing, and it's not for sale. We're in a very methodical process of assessing the strengths of the cathedral to determine areas where we need to improve. It's in solid financial shape, but we have to tighten up and live within our budget."

Historic and contemporary images

See also


External links

Coordinates: 35°8′48″N 90°2′12″W / 35.14667°N 90.03667°W / 35.14667; -90.03667


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address