One of the earliest missionary centers of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota and believed to be the first Episcopal cathedral built in the United States, the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour is also a monument to Henry Benjamin Whipple. Elected first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota in 1858 at the age of thirty-seven, Whipple soon became known as "Straight Tongue" by the Dakota and Ojibway Indians whose rights he worked to secure through the reform of U.S. Indian policies and an active Indian mission program. Speaking almost alone, it was Whipple who persuaded Abraham Lincoln to commute most of the sentences of Dakota men condemned to death after the conflict of 1862.
The cathedral developed out of work begun in 1858 by James Lloyd Breck. The cornerstone was laid on July 16, 1862. James Renwick, architect of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, is credited with the design. Envisioned as a gathering place for the Parish of the Good Shepherd, Seabury Divinity School, Shattuck, and St. Mary's Hall, the Faribault Cathedral was consecrated on June 24, 1869. The tower, designed by Ralph Adams Cram, architect of St. John the Divine in New York City, was added as a memorial to Bishop Whipple after his death in 1901. Whipple is buried in a crypt beneath the chancel.
In 1941, St. Mark's in Minneapolis became the diocesan cathedral. However, the "Bishop's Church in Faribault" remains the home of an active congregation and a place of pilgrimage in southern Minnesota.