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Resting in Peace: The Hidden Grave in Downtown Raleigh

Thousands of commuters speed past it every single day. Pedestrians hurry by, unaware of its presence behind the black iron fence. Though it is located in the center of downtown, few, if any, are aware of this hidden Raleigh landmark.  But, if you can read Latin, then perhaps you can can figure out its location.

The “it” no one ever notices is the final resting place of the Right Reverend Monsignor Thomas P. Griffin. Father Griffin served as pastor of Sacred Heart Church for 32 years; and as rector of the Cathedral for 7. When he arrived in Raleigh in 1899, he found a small Catholic congregation which assembled for Mass in a tiny frame chapel appended to a crumbling antebellum mansion on Hillsboro St. Undaunted, the young priest energized the congregation, and by 1909 he had established Sacred Heart School (now Cathedral School). In the ensuing years, a rectory, convent and the beautiful stone Sacred Heart Church were built. Also during his pastorate, Sacred Heart Church was elevated to the status of cathedral when the Diocese of Raleigh was created in 1924.  

After dedicating more than half his life in service to Raleigh’s Catholic community, Father Griffin died in 1931 at the age of 61. Bishop William Hafey officiated at his funeral, and a large crowd turned out to witness his burial in the churchyard of Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Fr. Griffin is laid to rest in 1931 in the churchyard of his beloved Sacred Heart Cathedral. (Photo courtesy the NC Office of  Archives and History, State Archives.)


This is the view today.


Hundreds turned out for Fr. Griffin’s funeral. This is how the interior of Sacred Heart Cathedral appeared in 1931. (Photo courtesy the NC Office of  Archives and History, State Archives.)


This statue of Jesus watches serenely over Father Griffin’s grave…


… as 21st century traffic speeds relentlessly past.

Today, Father Griffin’s legacy to Raleigh — Cathedral School and the beautiful Sacred Heart Cathedral itself — is memorialized in stone, literally.  Requiescat in pace.

The Cathedral grounds are open to the public during daylight hours, and guests are invited to pay a respectful visit to the grave of this humble priest.

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