At the request of Archbishop John Hennessey who wanted to be buried beneath the Cathedral a mortuary chapel was commissioned. The chapel would not be completed until 1902, two years after Archbishop Hennessy’s death. It is the only Mortuary Chapel in the state of Iowa.
Seven Bishops and Archbishops are buried here: Bishop Loras, Bishop Clement Smyth, Archbishop John Hennessey, Archbishop Francis Beckman, Archbishop Henry Rohlman, Archbishop Raymond Etteldorf, and Archbishop James Byrne.
Those not buried here are Archbishops John Keane and James Keane who are buried in Mt. Olivet in Key West, Iowa and Archbishop Leo Binzwho is buried in St. Paul, Minnesota. Archbishops can choose whether to be buried here or not. The last burial was in 1996 –Archbishop James Byrne was buried here in the fall of 1996. The graves are in the floor – the gravemarker is in the middle of the grave.
The chapel is built of Italian marble. The altar and communion rail are good examples of how Mass used to be celebrated at an altar against the wall. In 1997 an indoor entrance was made possible so that parishioners and pilgrims may have open access to this holy space, and pay tribute to the Archbishops of Dubuque.
We are fortunate to have such a special place in our Cathedral. The bishops here laid the foundation for the entire Catholic community in Iowa. They are our ancestors in the faith, and they rest in peace at the Cathedral where they worked so hard for their faith community.