Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Photos of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

HERE ARE PHOTOS of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, the episcopal church for the Latin Rite Archdiocese of Saint Louis.  This is the grandest church in the region of Saint Louis, Missouri, and is one of the finest cathedrals in the United States.  This church is a frequent subject  on this website, but it has been some years since I've taken a lot of photos here.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - exterior

These photos were taken on January 8th.  The church has a Romanesque exterior, Renaissance dome, and the interior has Byzantine mosaics inspired by Saint Mark's in Venice, as well as Italian mosaics and some Art Deco detail.

Plans for building a cathedral on this site began with Archbishop Kain in the late 19th century. The old Cathedral located near the riverfront in downtown Saint Louis is a fine church, but it was located in what was then a dangerous warehouse district — and for this reason another church, Saint John Apostle and Evangelist, was used as a pro-Cathedral.  With industrialization following the Civil War, the population was moving out of downtown, and a new Cathedral was needed.

Archbishop John J. Glennon announced the new Cathedral in 1905, and needed to raise funds of the amount of one million dollars to begin construction. Groundbreaking started in 1907, the cornerstone was laid in 1908, and the first Mass was held here on October 18th 1914.  The cathedral was consecrated on June 29th 1926, on the centennial of the creation of the Diocese. The cathedral was not finished until 1988, with the completion of the mosaics in the transepts.  More history from the Cathedral's website is here.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - nave

I frequently attend Mass here, but I must admit that I often don't notice the mosaics high up in the church. When I'm just looking forward, I see the plain wood pews and the yellow stone walls. Bringing a camera along helps me see things in a new way — and looking at the final photos reveal detail I've hardly noticed before.

The purpose of a church is not merely a meeting place for the brethren. It ought to be a place suitable for — and dedicated to — the liturgy and for public and private devotion. Also, it ought to both instruct and inspire the faithful, and as an icon, provide a foretaste of things to come. The beauty and harmony of a church also provides repose in the spirit. The great expense of such a structure is usually a small part of a diocesan budget, and God willing, will be used over centuries.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - full sanctuary

The Gothic Revival of the 19th had noble aspirations to good effect, but sometimes the results of that movement were churches that produced nice feelings but were often not logically designed — although this logic was indeed the case with the original Gothic style. The later Liturgical Movement was a reaction to this, and attempted to bring intellectual order to liturgical art and architecture.

The sanctuary of the Cathedral Basilica was designed to emphasize the altar and crucifix as the focal points, and the art around the sanctuary symbolically reinforces the liturgy.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Ombrellino

The Umbraculum, ombrellino, pavilion, or umbrella, signifies that this is a minor basilica, having achieved that status in 1997. It is adorned with Papal symbols, as this honor is bestowed by the Pope.

In the background is the Archbishop's cathedra, or chair. The presence of a bishop's cathedra is what makes a church a cathedral.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Blessed Sacrament Chapel

Blessed Sacrament Chapel.  While having the tabernacle centered along the axis of the altar and crucifix is fitting for a parish church, a great cathedral or shrine often has lots of tourists and a separate chapel for adoration is appropriate.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Photo of Pope John Paul II at Our Lady's Chapel

Next to Our Lady's Chapel is a photograph of Pope John Paul II praying in that chapel, in January of 1999.

The lighting in the Cathedral is dim, yellowish, and irregular, and so most snapshots taken here tend to be disappointing, and do not adequately portray the color and detail found here. Because of this problem, I processed my photos here as if the church were brightly lit by uniform white lighting. I have recently color-calibrated my camera, so these photos should be at least somewhat more accurate than previous ones.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - ambulatory

Ambulatory between the Our Lady's Chapel and the sanctuary features Italian style mosaics on the ceiling.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - arms of Bishop du Bourg and statue of Saint Louis

In the ambulatory is this statue of Saint Louis IX, King of France and patron of the Archdiocese; above is the episcopal arms of Bishop du Bourg.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - arms of Archbishop Kenrick

The arms of Archbishop Kenrick. His motto was Noli irritare leonem — ‘do not irritate the lion’.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - organ console behind high altar

The organ console and choir reside unseen behind the high altar. An organist practicing.

Mosaics of angels surround the sanctuary, reflecting the Heavenly liturgy; up above is a scene from the Old Testament, which acts as a type or prefigurement of the Eucharist.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of Last Supper in sanctuary

Opposite, above the west side of the sanctuary, is a depiction of the Last Supper.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaics in west sanctuary arch

A closer view of the arch surrounding the Last Supper.  The pendentive shows Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaics in east sanctuary arch

Opposite shows the sacrifice of Abraham, which prefigures the Eucharist, the Christological symbol of the Lamb of God laying the book of seven seals from the Apocalypse, and a six-pointed Star of David, also known as the Star of Creation.  Saint Ambrose is on the pendentive.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view of nave from sanctuary

From the side of the sanctuary, showing the presider's chair to the left and the east transept in the background.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaics of Old Testament figures

Priestly figures of the Old Testament depicted on the arch in the front of the sanctuary.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaics of Doctors of the Church

Doctors of the Church.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Dome of the Apostles over the sanctuary

The dome above the sanctuary depicts the twelve Apostles.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Resurrection mosaic in east transept

The transept mosaics were completed in 1988, and are of a different style from the other mosaics here. While the sanctuary contains mosaics of a liturgical character, the main body of the nave shows artworks depicting the mysteries of faith, and a vision of future glory.

These mosaics have the theme of the Resurrection. "If Christ has not risen your faith is in vain."

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Pentecost mosaic in west transept

Pentecost mosaic.  "I will pour out my spirit on all flesh."

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of the Baptism of Christ

On the arch surrounding the Pentecost mosaic. Shown here is John, baptizing Jesus.  Surrounding this are nautical symbols, which are among the most ancient symbols in Christianity.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of Ascension

The Ascension.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - main dome

The main dome shows heavenly visions.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of angel under dome 1

The pendentives under the main dome depict angels.  The arch here shows the resurrection of the dead.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of angel under dome 2

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of angel under dome 3

Depiction of Creation.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - historical mosaics

Another dome, in the back of the nave, is surrounded by mosaics depicting the history of the Archdiocese.  Note the use of hierarchy: liturgical art is in the sanctuary, eschatological art in the main nave, and historical art in the back.  The four side-chapels are used for devotion.

The life of Saint Louis IX, King of France is depicted by mosaics in the narthex. I would think that this art would have been better off being depicted in a side-chapel rather than in the noisy narthex.

Please see the side-bar for many more photos of the cathedral.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - view of exterior facade with flagpoles


Address:
4431 Lindell Boulevard
Saint Louis, Missouri 63108

3 comments:

  1. It seems to me that they need a "coffee table" book to sell to tourists and more ... you'd do a great job for them :)

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  2. The gift shop here sells "The Great Saint Louis Cathedral" a well-illustrated book, written by Fr. William Barnaby Faherty, S.J.

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  3. Wow, very nice! I'm from the Diocese of Green Bay, WI, and we also have a very beautiful cathedral, though maybe not as quite beautiful as yours! Keep up the Good Work!

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