The early history of St. Joseph Parish dates back to 1813. In 1819, a small wooden mission church was built and dedicated in honor of St. Joseph. The first pastor of St. Joseph Church was appointed that year. Among the early pastors, Father Charles Menard (pastor from 1845-1896) is best known for his work in building the Parish community and establishing outlying parishes.
Father Menard’s church was located on Louisiana Highway 1 near the present location of the church cemetery. In 1916 this structure burned. Four years after the fire, Monsignor Alexander Barbier (pastor from 1911-1935) initiated the construction and design of the present church. The exterior of the church was completed in 1923 and the first mass was celebrated January 25, 1923.
St. Joseph Co-Cathedral is Renaissance Romanesque in design with several major features reflecting architectural design common to churches in Paris and Rome. The three altars, those of St. Joseph, the Blessed Mother and the main altar, are specially constructed of French and Italian marble. Above the main altar rises a 34 foot high Baldachin, or canopy. Along its upper edge are carvings of an angel, lion, ox and eagle. These same images appear on every column in the church. They are apocalyptic symbols representing the four Evangelists. Above the canopy, in the gold dome, are images of the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Life, a snake, an apple, and peacocks symbolizing the triumph of glory of the risen Christ. The seal of Pope Pius XI is also in the dome area while that of Archbishop Shaw is located under the arch immediately over the Sanctuary.
The crest that appears on every column depicts a shield with the emblems of Faith, Hope, Charity and the Ship of Life above a cast of grapes and wheat, symbolizing the wine and bread of the Holy Eucharist. There are spectacular stained glass windows in the Cathedral that portray events in the life of Christ, through His Resurrection. Those windows at the top of the church are emblems of the Sever Sacraments. The Thibodaux parishioners of St. Joseph Co-Cathedral are proud of their beautiful and historical church. It serves to give glory to God and it serves as a gathering place for prayer and celebration.