Recently, you may have seen construction lifts and workers inside and outside of The Basilica. First, some good news – the copper roof on the Dome is in good condition, and while there is still moisture in the stone walls, most of it is from leaking that happened years ago.
Because most moisture is being kept out, the ceiling plaster in The Basilica is starting to dry out. The not so good news – after years and years of moisture damage, the Basilica’s ceiling plaster is crumbling. As it dries, it has started to fall in large chunks. To protect Mass goers and visitors, a number of short-term measures have been put in place. White netting has been installed in Church by our contractor, Mortenson, and will remain in place during Advent and Christmas. In early January, the workers will be back. Using lifts and scaffolding in the Church, they will assess the moisture issues and damage to the ceiling plaster. As an immediate fix, they will knock down any loose crumbling areas of plaster. What is learned from the plaster assessment will help shape plans for a future interior restoration of the Church.
The construction lifts and scaffolding will allow access to the upper stained-glass windows and to the interior stone walls that have also suffered moisture damage. Due to age, we know that the leading in The Basilica’s beautiful stained-glass windows will need repairs and restoration – but we don’t now how severe the issues are. During early 2023, using these same lifts and scaffolding, restoration experts will gather information to inform plans for future work to restore the stained-glass windows. They will also evaluate a variety of methods for cleaning the interior stone walls. As you may know, the Basilica was heated by coal for years. The stone we experience as grey, has been discolored and is in need of cleaning. All the information gathered will help form the basis for a future and long anticipated restoration of The Basilica’s interior.
All of these projects have been funded by The Basilica Landmark. They have also funded a study of the moisture, humidity and temperatures inside The Basilica will also take place over the next year through the change of seasons. This study includes 42 wireless sensers and a moisture monitoring system that have just been installed in Church. Readings will be taken over the next year and the data gathered will help us create plans to care for The Basilica and steward it for future generations.
There are some areas of The Basilica that may require a structural analysis where cracking of the stone is becoming visible, and there is evidence that some exterior stones are shifting. Other areas continue to be problems for bringing moisture into the building, like the Basilica’s bell towers. These towers have copper floors that were installed in 1991 – but they are now over 30 years old, showing wear and allowing water intrusion. Plans include installation of a rubber roofing material to keep the moisture out.
It’s important to remember that we have to continue to let the interior of The Basilica dry out before any restoration efforts can begin. We anticipate that this will take several years.