Basilica Stunning Work of Art
One of the most common items seen while browsing the internet are the "best of" lists that include anything from top restaurants to outstanding athletes to dramatic tourist attractions.
If one were to look up "most beautiful churches in America," contained in most lists will be the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
We were able to tour this magnificent structure last week while in St. Louis for a business meeting. Our first stop was a relatively quick walk-through and then we returned the next day for a tour conducted by one of the long-time members of the church.
The historic cathedral received its basilica status in connection with the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1997.
The Pope conducted mass in the cathedral as part of his historic visit to St. Louis. Our guide explained that members of the church participated in a lottery to determine who would be able to obtain a seat for the visit -- he was fortunate to be able to attend. Many thousands more attended a service at the downtown arena, but the demand was so great that a separate lottery also was conducted for that event.
Pope Paul VI called the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis "the outstanding cathedral of the Americas," and it clear why he made that statement.
The cathedral was constructed from 1907 to 1914 (Romanesque on the exterior and Byzantine on the interior), but changes and additions have continued since that time.
The hallmark of the cathedral is the overwhelming beauty of the mosaic work depicting Christian themes and Catholic history throughout the massive structure. It is the largest collection of mosaics in the Western Hemisphere and one of the largest in the world. The installation contains 41.5 million pieces of glass featuring more than 8,000 colors.
The mosaic work began in 1912 and was completed in 1988. There are 83,000 square feet of mosaics in the cathedral.
The mosaics in the vestibule and main church are the work of Paul Heuduck and his son Arno Heuduck.
In addition to the magnificent mosaic work, other dramatic features of the church are the red central dome, 143 feet high, and the brilliant white marble statue of Christ, which is covered by a "baldachino" over the main altar.
The cathedral is located on Lindell Avenue in the Central West End section of St. Louis. As the tour brochure notes, the cathedral "provides a visual lesson in faith, history, art and architecture, a source of inspiration, on many levels, to many visitors from around the world."
It also provides a sense of magnificent awe and just walking into the cathedral is in itself a profoundly reverent and worshipful experience.