On either side of the sanctuary are side chapels: the chapel on the north is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saints of the Americas, and on the south is the Chapel of the Martyrs of the Church.
The sacred wall paintings in both of the chapels were done by artists from EverGreen Studios of Brooklyn, NY during the 2005 Restoration. The wood altars in these chapels were the altars of Saint Joseph and Saint Patrick which were the side altar focal images in the original church (removed in the 1930’s).
The Chapel for Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Saints of the Americas, first and foremost, contains a large painted scene of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance(s) to Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin in 1531. The glowing image of Our Lady is a recreation of the image imprinted on Saint Juan Diego’s tilma and hovers above a map of North and South America, as Our Lady of Guadalupe is not only the patroness of the Diocese of Sacramento, but also of the Americas. Surrounding the 1531 scene are smaller niches depicting 13 important saints who lived and worked in the Americas. The saint roster is almost perfectly balanced to include both male and female saints with one niche in the chapel remaining blank to represent the hopeful possibility that any baptized believer viewing the painting could be a future saint after completion of a holy life. The roll of Saints includes those canonized mostly in the 20th century and is headed by images at the top of the chapel of Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. The Saint whose relic is part of the altar, Saint Toribio Romo Gonzalez is pictured, as is “Blessed” Junipero Serra who is now officially a Saint. All of these Saints dedicated their lives to noble causes of helping others, as well as spreading the Good News of the Gospel. The images are painted in the style of a Byzantine icons, but with more realistic faces than traditional European icons. Pictured here is Our Lady’s Chapel adorned with bouquets of roses in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th.
The Chapel of Martyrs on the south side of the sanctuary contains a marvelous juxtaposition of the Resurrected Jesus and numerous martyrs of the church. A painted mural surrounds a Crucifix ahead of a Jerusalem scene reminding all of the necessary interrelationship of the death of Christ (and the saintly martyrs) and the glory of the third-day Resurrection of Jesus. The painting of the glorified Jesus within an almond-shaped halo was inspired by a painting of the risen Jesus in the Vatican by Peitro Perugino (teacher of Raphael). The painting contains the depiction of 22 martyrs with the upper half showing those of the early church and the lower half of those more recent. The imagery, like that in the chapel on the north side, attempts to balance the distribution of male and female, and also includes saints from around the world of various nationalities and ethnicities. The photo shows the Chapel decorated for Easter.
Murphy, James T., Reverend Monsignor. A Pilgrim’s Guide to Sacramento’s Cathedral. France: Editions du Signe, 2006.