An evangelical style Victorian church at the heart of inner city Portsmouth.
Prior to the late 18th century it had been illegal for English Catholics to have chapels within most towns and cities. The Second Catholic Relief Act of 1791 removed this prohibition. The first priest appointed was Revd John Cahill who opened a chapel in a private house in the town. In 1794 he was succeeded by Revd Joseph Knapp who two years later opened a purpose built chapel located in Prince George Street, one of the backstreets of Portsea. With a seating capacity of 300 it had by the mid 19th century become too small for the numbers attending Mass. Portsmouth being a garrison town had an ever increasing number of Catholic soldiers and the number of local lay Catholics was also on the increase. In 1877 the priest responsible for the Catholic community of Portsea was Revd John Horan. He decided to build a new church on a new site. He contracted John Crawley as architect and building began in 1879 at a cost of £9,000; of this £4,000 was donated by the Duke of Norfolk and the remainder came from many much smaller donations from the local Catholic community.
The foundation stone was laid in 1880 and that same year JS Hanson succeeded John Crawley as architect; both were influenced by the Gothic Revival of the 19th century and its leading protagonist, AW Pugin. Two years later it became a diocesan cathedral and was consecrated on 29 March 1887 by the first Bishop of Portsmouth. The Cathedral was completed in four phases: 1882, the nave; 1886, the crossing; 1893, the chancel and 1906, the narthex and west porch including the turrets built to the designs of Canon Alexander Scholes. St Patricks Chapel was added in 1924.
On the night of 10 January 1941 the Cathedral was badly damaged in one of the major air raids on Portsmouth during World War Two and the next door Bishops House was completely destroyed. Extensive renovation of the Cathedral was begun in 1946 and was completed in 1950. The stained glass in the Apse, the Lady Chapel and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel date from this period. Further renovations and major reorderings have taken place in 1970, 1982 and 2001. Outside the Cathedral's west end stands the prominent sculpture of St John the Evangelist, the work of Philip Jackson, installed in 2010.