PROVIDENCE — The nine-month, $4.5 million project to replace the entire 131-year-old slate roof of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul is nearing completion — on time and within budget — and Msgr. Anthony Mancini couldn’t be happier.
The cathedral rector said that the company tasked with the massive job has been diligent in its attention to details, and has strived to minimize the impact of the massive renovation on those who come to Mass there each day.
“It’s first class all the way,” Msgr. Mancini said of the work performed by Consigli Construction and its contractors. “We chose the right company; they are really great. Whatever they promised us they did.”
“The beautiful interior of the cathedral is now protected from rain and snow and wind and that’s important. We had a lot of leaks.”
The original Maine slate roof that had capped one of the nation’s grandest houses of worship had, for the most part, withstood the test of time since it was installed when the cathedral was consecrated in 1889.
While patching, through the years, had left the roof’s appearance a bit uneven, these temporary fixes had also left the interior more vulnerable to water leaks. These could cause significant damage to the cathedral’s ornate wooden ceiling and the beautiful artworks painted upon them, as well its magnificent stained glass windows.
With the Maine quarry that served as the source of the original slate for the roof tiles no longer in operation, the contractors instead used a similarly durable and appealing Vermont slate which was available.
Despite its name, Vermont Black, the slate tiles used in the roof replacement are a dark, gray-green color.
“We expect it to last in excess of 100 years, like the current roof. It’s a very cost-effective slate compared to some other products we surveyed,” diocesan Director of Facilities Sean Brennan told Rhode Island Catholic as the project got underway last summer.
As the project nears completion, with shiny copper drainage pipes being installed this week and the remaining staging being taken down, Brennan said he was pleased with the way the project has been carried out.
“From a project management standpoint Consigli was very good to work with. They coordinated the sub-contractors extremely well,” Brennan said.
There were several facets to the roof replacement, including a highly specialized asbestos abatement program that was implemented to ensure that any asbestos was encapsulated in the mastic — similar to caulk used through the years to repair leaks — before the tiles in each quadrant could be stripped and replaced.
Improvements along the roof line were also made, including the installation of two new larger sets of snow guard rails, along with work on the gutters, valleys, copper flashing and some minor stonework around the perimeter of the building.
In addition to the project being completed on schedule, it is also within budget.
“We’re on budget, if not a little under, which is a great thing,” Brennan said.
The project is being paid for in part through donations to Bishop Thomas J. Tobin’s Grateful for God’s Providence diocesan capital campaign, as well as from donations and bequests from cathedral parishioners.
The next structural project set to be addressed at the cathedral is the shoring up of its signature brownstone bell towers.
“A lot of the cement that keeps the stone in place is deteriorating,” Msgr. Mancini said.
Brennan said the towers project has already been priced out for this spring and the funds to pay for it have already been set aside.
In the spring the laydown area opposite the cathedral’s south entrance, which was used to house construction materials during the roof project, will be reseeded.
In September, the Diocese of Providence will kick off a nearly yearlong celebration of its 150th anniversary, which will culminate in a Mass at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in June 2022.
The last major renovation to the cathedral occurred from 2012-13, to prepare for its 125th anniversary in 2014.
At that time the pews were refreshed, with some being removed to create a seating area for the handicapped along with a cross aisle to improve the flow of movement during Communion. New interior LED lighting was also installed, illuminating fully the cathedral’s ornate ceiling for the first time in decades. On the outside, stone masonry work was done to reinforce the cathedral’s signature large rose windows.
In 2015-2016 the vinyl tile floor of the cathedral’s hall, on the lower level, was replaced with a vinyl planking floor that has the appearance of wood and is easier to maintain.
“We’ve accomplished everything we needed to do,” Msgr. Mancini said of the cathedral’s upkeep.
In a recent posting to Twitter, Bishop Tobin commended the work being done to replace the cathedral’s roof.
“The work on the roof of our Cathedral will soon be wrapping up. The workers have done an amazing job, and thanks to all who have supported this massive project. Soon, the next project, the work on the towers will begin,” Bishop Tobin posted.