St. Mary Basilica damaged in storm, but nothing that cannot be repaired

Published 3:42 pm Monday, February 22, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Father Scott Thomas, pastor at St. Mary Basilica, said water damage in the church can be repaired and nothing historic seems to have been compromised.

“Who knows, we might get our original wood floors back,” Thomas said.

Water infiltrated the church during last week’s winter storm when ice covered downspouts outside the church and water backed up into the church.

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“That’s what we assume. Our insurance people will be here tomorrow,” Thomas said. “We got all kinds of water in here — all in the pews, along the walls and down into the basement.”

Emergency clean up crews were working in the church on Monday, starting in the basement. They had yet to begin work in the sanctuary.

However, Thomas said nothing that cannot be replaced was damaged.

“We are not concerned about that. The pews, even though they were covered with water, look totally normal now. The people who built this place knew what they were doing. It’s lasted 180 years and I’m sure it has another 180 years in it,” he said.

Construction began on St. Mary Cathedral in 1842, and took 40 years to complete. Supervising architect James Hardie designed the Gothic Revival structure. It is considered one of the most historically significant church buildings in the South.

Until repairs can be completed, services in the basilica have been halted. Thomas said a new location to hold mass temporarily until repairs are complete would be chosen soon.

“We will be back in there as soon as we can. It all depends on how much they have to rip out. We will know more tomorrow after the insurance people come by,” he said.