The detail of the new co-cathedral

January 29, 2008 5:23:30 PM PST
We're just a few months away from the official dedication of the new Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. And there's still a lot of work to do. We spent the day touring the $40 million building and was there as some custom made statues were erected.

The statues weighed more than 500 pounds. So you would think that would create quite a challenge. But while building this cathedral, the craftsmen inside faced much larger obstacles. Still, they took every precaution handling the priceless piece of artwork.

With help from chains and pulleys, a construction teams began the careful process of erecting the statue of St. Theresa. Weighing more than 500 hundred pounds, the wood-carved statue is one of six that will line the walls inside of the new co-cathedral for the Galveston-Houston archdiocese.

In the coming days, the others will also be mounted, including one of St. Juan Diego. Extremely detailed, up close, the Italian-made statues have a lifelike presence.

That quality isn't an accident. The statue's designer spared no attention to detail.

"Before I'd work on them, I'd do a lot of research," said artist Renate Rohn.

Rohn painted all of the wood statues of saints that will be placed in the building.

"We did everything from preparing the wood to antiquing them, gold-leafing them and then layers of paint glazes," she said.

Although the statues traveled across the ocean, dealing with Houston's winter climate created the biggest challenge to complete the projects.

"We'd put on these antiquing surfaces and they weren't drying," said Rohn. "We went and got hair dryers and were trying different things."

The artist used what was at hand to solve the problem -- sheets of plastic and construction lamps. She set up a makeshift tent to trap the heat and dry the paint on the wooden statues.

As Rohn completed the statues, scaffolding covering the massive stained glass window at the front of the cathedral is finally removed. For the first time, the Italian artists who designed and created the resurrection window as it is called look at it in its entirety.

"We are really happy about it and we hope that everybody who looks at this stained glass window will have the same feeling," said Massimo Mellini with Mellini Stainglass.

Along with inspiration, all of the artwork inside of the co-cathedral is meant to express the glory of God.

The project manager hopes to hand over the keys to the co-cathedral to the archdiocese in late March.

Here are a few more facts about the new co-cathedral. It will seat 1,820 people with space for an additional 200 chairs. There are about 8,000 cubic yards of concrete in the cathedral. That's enough to pour a four-foot wide sidewalk from downtown to The Woodlands.

Stay with Eyewitness News for more updates on the construction and we will have exclusive live coverage of the dedication of the cathedral, in English and Spanish, on April 2.

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