Crowds witness consecration of rebuilt Holy Cross Church in San Jose

100-year old church burned down in 2014

New stained glass and building with old crucifix.

California Catholic Daily exclusive by Roseanne T. Sullivan.

On Sunday November 16, 2014, flames began shooting up from the roof towards the front of the stucco Italianate Holy Cross Church in northside San Jose, just a few minutes after the 1:00 p.m. Mass.

San Jose fire crews recovered a 10-foot-tall crucifix that survived the 4-alarm fire at Holy Cross Catholic Church. (image from KTVU Fox 2 Facebook page)

The day after the fire, local and national news excitedly reported the discovery of a more-than-a-century old strikingly beautiful ten-foot tall crucifix largely undamaged in the water-soaked ruins. The Italian-crafted crucifix had been hung in the wooden parish church in 1907, a year after the first building’s consecration, and it was moved into the larger stucco church when that was built in 1920. The crucifix was later thrown out and broken during a remuddling in the 1960s, but the pieces had been saved by a sentimental janitor, and the crucifix had been reassembled, restored, and replaced in the church in time for the start of the parish’s celebration of its 100th anniversary in 2005.

Most importantly the Blessed Sacrament, but also the holy chrism oils, and some other statues and religious art pieces were also saved from the fire.  The walls were still standing, and the stained-glass windows had also been spared.

But the focus of practically everyone’s amazement was mostly on the crucifix. The fact it survived with only superficial damage–even though the roof had collapsed and debris had rained down upon it–gave everyone hope that the pretty little neighborhood church would survive also, and rise again from its ashes.

Holy Cross Catholic Church on East Jackson Street in San Jose burned down in 2014 after nearly 100 years. (image from NBC7 video)

And so, it has. On Friday afternoon, May 25, almost four years later, a rebuilt and modernized Holy Cross Church was consecrated by San Jose’s Bishop Patrick McGrath, who called the church stunning and magnificent in his remarks.

The church was filled to overflowing an hour before the consecration began. People who came later were encouraged to watch the ceremonies from the church hall, where large screen TVs were set up, but scores ignored the request and stayed standing in the aisles and across the back of the church. Four choirs (English, Italian, Spanish, and Filipino) sang various parts of the Mass and hymns from the choir loft.

Except for the mostly glass façade with a modern glass chandelier visible in the vestibule and the bell tower having been moved to the front, the outside of the church looks much as it did before the fire. But many much-loved interior features are gone or changed. And many modern touches have been added.

Old Holy Cross Church in San Jose, built in 1920.

Current pastor Livio Stella, C.S., told this reporter that the half-dome that used to be above the sanctuary was too expensive to replace. The crucifix now hangs in front of a wall of black-framed blocks of blue and gold art glass, lit by electric lights from behind and also by sunlight pouring in from holes in the sacristy wall behind the glass. The old walls could not be saved because they contained asbestos, but the stained-glass windows that survived were restored and line the new walls. The seating capacity has been reduced because of requirements for a handicapped accessible bathroom and other code requirements. Small rectangular clerestory windows add to the larger amount of natural light entering the building through the clear glass front, windows interspersing the stained glass, and the windows behind the glass wall. The tabernacle is embedded in a block behind the rectangular altar, which is faced with black stone, similar to the stone used on the floor.

Everyone I asked was happy with the new church. Although many miss the old church, everyone seemed pleased with the new one, and Catholics in the neighborhood are relieved to have their church open for Mass again. They’ve been going to Mass in the church hall for almost four years now.

For more details about the history of the church and its cross, see “The Crucifix That Keeps On Coming Back.”




  1. For a gallery of photos of the consecration of the new Holy Cross church, see:

  2. Joel Fago says:

    God is watching over the Catholic Church.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunate interior. Is that a Catholic altar for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or a “Come to Meeting” stage?

  4. mike magee says:

    Did fire authorities determine the cause of the original fire? What was done in the rebuild to reduce or eliminate this risk?

  5. St. Christopher says:

    What tragedy! This looks like a bus stop, or a stand-up bar somewhere institutional. We never want to have too much beauty or magnificence. Our glorious Church is so disrespected.

    Come on Catholics, this looks awful.

  6. Anonymous, you should have the courage to identify yourself. I agree with you that the church was not designed appropriately to give the proper focus on the Altar of Sacrifice. The linked article, “The Crucifix that Keeps on Coming Back” discusses the flaws in the design. The architect is someone who has no training in the “language” of traditional Catholic Church architecture, and his aesthetic that seems more suited to the coffee shops and other commercial establishments he has previously designed. Mike Magee, although authorities did not find a cause, organ lofts are notorious fire risk, and the tangle of electric cords for the choir instruments and the aging organ may account for the fire, which started in the choir area. This is…

  7. Anne TE says:

    When I first saw the mostly blue background for the cross in other pictures, I did not like it much, but in this picture the blue background looks lovely and sets off the cross very well. In other pictures I saw how well the stained-glass windows were reset. Someone did an excellent job from what I have seen. I also like how the original structure on the outside was kept and well blended with the newer. Prayers for and thanks to everyone — God most of all.

  8. I’m glad the church was rebuilt, but that sanctuary is ugly. Unartistic, lacking in nobleness, and the giant screen competes with the crucifix for attention. The artistic concept of the illuminated back wall seems more like something that belongs at Disneyland, except the Disney imagineers would have chosen a color scheme that works.

  9. An altar is a place where sacrifice is offered. That is what distinguishes it from a table.

  10. Anonymous 61 says:

    Just for perspective, Holy Cross was fully “renovated” for the Vatican II liturgy in 1969, when tellingly, the beautiful original Italianate cruficix was discarded in the dumpster. Literally true, by the way.

    Now, after the 2014 fire, the remnant of the high altar and the side altars (which still had many of the Jesuit saints, S. Ignatius, S. Francis X., others from when it was a Jesuit parish in the 1920’s) are now gone, and it is completely “renovated” yet again, yet now with a blank wall and a severe table set in from of it.

    So, which “renovation” was faithful to Vatican II?

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.