Martin John Spalding

Historical Marker #1302 commemorates Martin John Spalding, an early religious leader from Marion County, Kentucky.

Spalding was born on May 23, 1810, in Rolling Fork, Kentucky, the sixth of eight children born to Richard and Henrietta Spalding. Martin's mother died when he was about six years old. Cared for by his oldest sister and his paternal grandmother, he was sent to a country school at age eight and received his First Communion two years later. In 1821, he entered the newly-established St. Mary's College in Lebanon. At St. Mary's, he became a favorite pupil of Reverend William Byrne. Showing great promise, Spalding became professor of mathematics at age fourteen. He graduated from St. Mary's in 1826, and, having resolved to join the priesthood, entered St. Thomas Seminary in Bardstown later that year. He remained in Bardstown for four years, dividing his time between studying philosophy and theology and teaching at the adjoining St. Joseph's College.

In 1830, he was sent by Bishop Benedict Joseph Flaget to continue his studies at the Urban College of Propaganda in Rome, Italy. In 1834, he earned a Doctor of Divinity degree. Upon his return to Kentucky later that year, he passed through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his former professor at St. Thomas Seminary, Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick, allowed him to preach his first sermon in America. Spalding returned to Kentucky that December, and was immediately named rector of St. Joseph Cathedral and as professor of philosophy at St. Thomas Seminary. In addition to these duties, he became the first editor of the weekly "Catholic Advocate" in 1835; he also founded that publication’s successor, “"he Louisville Guardian."

On April 18, 1848, Spalding was appointed coadjutor bishop of Louisville Pope Pius IX. He later received his Episcopal consecration from Bishop Flaget at the Cathedral of Louisville. When Bishop Flaget died on February 11, 1850, Spalding succeeded him as Bishop of Louisville. In August 1855, he faced an anti-Catholic riot known as Bloody Monday.

Following the death of Bishop Francis Kenrick (who had been transferred to the Archdiocese of Baltimore from Philadelphia in 1851) Spalding was appointed the seventh Archbishop of Baltimore on May 3, 1864. His installation took place at the Cathedral of the Assumption that July. As the head of the oldest diocese in the United States, Spalding held a right of precedence over all other archbishops and bishops in the country. A short time before Christmas 1871, he went to New York to attend a meeting of bishops. On his return home, he caught a severe cold which developed into an acute form of bronchitis. He died on February 7, 1872, at age 61. He was buried in the crypt of the Cathedral of the Assumption.