History of the Pro-Cathedral

In 1847, Pope Pius IX re-established the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and selected Mgr Giuseppe Valerga as the first Patriarch. The reestablishment of the See of Jerusalem occurred while Palestine was under the authority of the Ottoman administration, and during the historical era in which Queen Victoria ruled over the empire of Great Britain, Napolean was emperor of France, and the seeds of the American Civil War was beginning to fragment.

In the early 1860s, Patriarch Valerga initiated efforts to secure land to construct a Pro-Cathedral to serve the See of the Patriarchate for the Diocese of Jerusalem. The land, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, was purchased from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and construction of the Pro-Cathedral began in 1862. Between 1862 and 1872, the construction of the Pro-Cathedral was one of Patriarch Valerga's main concerns and, on February 11, 1872, he presided over the consecration ceremony of the new church.

Despite its solid foundation, extensive structural damage occurred to the Pro-Cathedral during a violent earthquake, which struck Jerusalem on July 11, 1927. Extensive repairs were required to restore its structural stability.

The next serious mishap occurred during the Arab-Jewish War of 1948-1949. The explosion of land mines shattered the stained-glass windows and mortar shells destroyed the roof tiles. Consequently, due to the severely damaged roof, heavy rains caused extensive damage to the paintings of the saints on the vaulted ceiling of the church.

Temporary replacement windows were installed by Fr. Willibod and Br. Paulinas of the Trappist Monastery in Latroun; however, an extensive restoration was necessary. In 1984, Patriarch Beltritti retained the services of Dr. Arnold Wolf, a German architect, to plan and direct the restoration. The precise goal set by Patriarch Beltritti was to restore as much as possible the church as Patriarch Valerga, its creator, had conceived it.

Physical restoration activity began in 1986 and was completed in 1988. As intended, the Pro-Cathedral was restored to conform to the vision of Patriarch Valerga. Dr. Wolf retained expert craftsmen to assist in the restoration; German specialist George Maul and his assistant Yasmine Becker were charged with restoring and freshening the 1869-1870 ceiling and wall paintings of Vincenzo Pacelli. Dr. Wolf did not want the blue vaulted ceiling repainted, so he chose to have his assistants carefully hand wash it, to preserve its beauty. Restoration of the main altar was accomplished under the direction of Mr. Reifdorfen of Germany, and Mounir Hodaly, a skilled Palestinian craftsman, who skillfully succeeded in restoring the gold gilded altar. Included in the restoration of the main altar was a "time capsule" containing copies of newspapers and signatures of notable people of the day. 

The church flooring was renewed with white marble, with black marble inserts between the stones.

A smaller altar with a table and columns made of local red stones with artistic ornamentation was placed near the front of the main altar area. It was offered to the church by Count von Metternich of Germany.

Throughout its history, the Pro-Cathedral has been the site of memorable liturgical services, religious ceremonies and visitation by dignitaries. In the recent past, it has been blessed and honored by the visits of Pope Paul VI in 1964, and more recently by Pope John Paul II, when he made his historic visit to the Holy Land in the Great Jubilee Year (2000). Plaques commemorating these important events are located on the exterior of the Pro-Cathedral. 

The visits by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II were followed by a Pontifical Mass offered by Cardinal Roger Etchogaray in May 2002. Patriarch Sabbah offered a Mass of Remembrance in the Pro-Cathedral for those who died in the tragedy of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington. 

Note: the Pro-Cathedral used to be called "Co-cathedral", but its name was changed in 2022 to better illustrate its particular status, and insist on the greater importance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as main cathedral of the Patriarchate.