Sacred Heart Cathedral and Cathedral School

Building Area: 22,611 s.f. (New) 21,734 s.f. (Renovation)

Date of Completion: Spring 2018

Type: New Construction & Renovation

Location: Knoxville, TN

The parish at Sacred Heart had a vision that began with a new cathedral that would be a place of beauty and transcendence. BarberMcMurry, in association with our cathedral design consultant McCrery Architects, designed The Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, a new sacred worship space in Knoxville that is both beautiful and timeless.

The cathedral’s design is rooted in history through its use of classical materials, proportions, and ecclesiastical relationships. An intense attention to detail characterized this project, from the Italian marble to the flooring pattern, and from the cathedral ceiling’s painted coffers to the size of the brick utilized on the exterior.

The dome of the cathedral is the most recognizable feature from the exterior of the building and the most arresting in the interior. Inspired by the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy, the dome is 147 feet high — taller than the Statue of Liberty from her heel to the top of her head. The artistic images adorning the interior of this space were handcrafted by decorative artists, painted onto canvases that were later installed in place. The paintings depict 16 saints, the 12 apostles, Joseph, Mary the Blessed Mother, and Jesus Christ, who stands at 25 feet tall with an arm span of 17 feet. The dome is crowned by a cupola with oculus that allows a shaft of light to beam down into the cathedral.

In addition to its beauty, the design prioritizes sustainability and long-term maintenance and expense. An innovative ice storage system freezes water for use with the heating and cooling system during early morning or off-peak hours for use during the heat of the day, when demand is high. All lighting, even the traditional wrought-iron chandeliers, feature LED technology. The design team chose local and regional artisans for the handcrafted materials in the cathedral wherever possible.

A state-of-the-art acoustic design program “tuned” each seat in the facility so that spoken word, singing, instrumental music, and the grand organ can be heard throughout the sanctuary with the same extraordinary sound quality. The nave accommodates a portable stage riser system so that instrumental and choral concerts can be enjoyed in the space.

In addition to the cathedral, this project includes improvements across the diocesan campus that will address their need for upgrades in their education, meeting, and social spaces. The cathedral and other spaces will serve the needs of the parish and the growing diocese for generations.