History of Cathedral

The history of St. Ambrose Parish began in 1851 in a log hut in Fort Des Moines with Mass offered by the first resident priest of Ottumwa. In 1856, one year after the Iowa Legislature voted to move the capitol from Iowa City to a location near the fork of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, the first church, size 40 by 24 feet, was built.

The altar is the center of our worship. The base comes from the marble screen in front of the former sanctuary pews. The new mensa (top) is travertine marble. Relics of St. Ambrose, found in the former altar, are encased in a hand painted container and enclosed in the altar under glass.

The Our Lady’s Chapel was added on in the 1940’s. The chapel was named for Our Lady Statue of St. Anne. It is designed for flexibility in worship. Along the ceiling is painted Mary’s prayer. The altar, ambo & chair were used by the Pope during his visit to Living History Farms in 1979. The rose window depicts the seven gifts of the spirit.

This fifth renovation was begun out of a need for a better liturgical environment and because of badly needed repairs. The planning began only after many months of study: researching and liturgy, church architecture, and the needs of the parish. The people of the entire diocese were invited to participate.

he church was dedicated on October 11, 1891, and became the cathedral when the Diocese of Des Moines was established in 1911.