BALTIMORE - It took almost three years and $34 million to restore the Baltimore Basilica to the same condition that took shape during the War of 1812 and just a matter of seconds for a 5.8 magnitude earthquake to fracture its plastered arches.
"Inside and out, it looks like '06 when we walked away again," said Project Superintendent George Wilk, "So it's bittersweet. You don't know we were here, but that's the point of it."
Workers cleared out the last evidence of the repair work before the basilica was to throw open its doors for a mass this Holy Thursday.
PHOTOS | Damage at the Baltimore Basilica
While the cathedral is a national shrine and a historic landmark, Sean Caine of the Archdiocese of Baltimore says, first and foremost, it's a church, and now it's parishioners can return home.
"There are parishioners here whose church has been closed for the last seven months. So they're ecstatic to be getting in back, and Easter is a time of renewal and rebirth and basically the church, itself, is being reborn again and renewed," said Caine.
In the months following the earthquake dozens of cracks appeared including one structural fissure in the west main dome arch, but we're told the building was never in imminent danger.
Insurance covered the$3 million repair bill.
"It covered all of it," said Caine, "We had earthquake insurance, which not many people have or can believe, but we had several locations---about 50 of our churches actually suffered some type of damage during that earthquake. This one being obviously the most extensive and high profile, but by the grace of God, insurance covered it."
There will be a grand re-opening along with an Easter Mass on Sunday.
The same quake damaged Washington's National Cathedral and the Washington Monument.