When it was formed in 1808, Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore named Bardstown The First Catholic Diocese West of the Allegheny Mountains. The diocese encompassed the entire northwest. In 1811, Benedict Joseph Flaget, a French Sulpician Priest and a man of great warmth and leadership, assumed the duties of Bishop of the west. Flaget and his co-adjutor Bishop John Baptiste David would shepherd the Diocese for 40 years, creating three dozen dioceses from the original.
Bishop Flaget chose John Rogers, an architect from Baltimore, to design and oversee the massive undertaking of building the Cathedral. By 1819, the great edifice was sufficiently constructed and complete for consecration. Gifts for its decoration included a gilded bronze tabernacle, a bell for the church tower, a massive clock for the church exterior and artwork from European nobility and Pope Leo XII.
Since Bardstown was the original site of the First Cathedral, St. Joseph is now called a Proto-Cathedral, meaning First. It now serves as one of the largest parish churches in the archdiocese. In 2001, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, by virtue of faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II conferred the title and dignity of Minor Basilica to St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral.
Hours/Tours: 9am-5pm weekdays, Saturday 9am-3pm; Sunday 1-5pm. Tour guide on duty April-October.