BALTIMORE (WJZ)– New damage has surfaced in Baltimore from last summer’s East Coast earthquake.

Alex DeMetrick reports some million dollar cracks have been found in the Basilica of the Assumption.

From the outside, the Basilica of the Assumption is fine. But it’s what’s beneath the church’s distinctive domes that’s raised concern.

“Those are some of the most significant cracks in the main dome,” said Sean Caine, the Archdiocese of Baltimore spokesman.

The cracks were caused by last August’s unusually strong 5.8 earthquake. At first they went unnoticed, but then they were spotted.

“Very, very disappointed to see the cracks, and then when they started to expand, we knew we had something to deal with,” Monsignor Arthur Valenzano, the rector at the Basilica, said.

America’s first cathedral underwent a $40 million renovation seven years ago. That work kept the Basilica closed to the public for more than a year.

Repairing the cracks from the quake means the return of some scaffolding but not full-time closure.

“The Basilica is going to be closed during the week beginning June 1 for about eight months,” Caine said.

But it will be open for services on weekends because engineers don’t see a danger.

“They’re very confident there’s not a structural problem,” Valenzano said.

While word of limited hours and months of repairs is just getting out, the diocese gave early warning to 21 future brides whose weddings are scheduled here.

“All but one has agreed to stick it out, and I think that just goes to show you that this is really a beautiful place to be married and a beautiful church,” Caine said.

Repairs will run $3 million to $5 million, but in a bit of divine providence, the diocese has earthquake insurance. As for the quake, parishioners have their own theory.

“That’s some of God’s work. He didn’t destroy it, he just put a crack there,” said Ula Sifontes, a Baltimore resident.

Besides working weddings around the scaffolding, the Basilica will still host Catholic high school graduations.


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