Drive around the sprawling metropolis of St. Louis, Missouri and you are likely to see the Cathedral Basilica’s giant green dome in the distance.
While the Cathedral is stunning on the outside in its own right, what is hidden in the interior is truly breathtaking.
The 83,000 square foot building was built between 1907 and 1914 in a Romanesque style on the outside and a Byzantine style interior.
Walking in you are immediately in awe of the mosaic artwork throughout as well as the sheer aura of the building.
Growing up Nazarene, we don’t really have historic churches so my knowledge of cathedrals is pretty limited and mainly comes from Ken Follett’s wonderful novel, Pillars of the Earth.
According to the church’s handout, this is one of the largest collections of mosaics in the world, created by 20 different artists. It has 41.5 million pieces of glass tessare, featuring 7,000 colors. The mosaic installation began in 1912 and was completed in 1988. That’s a long construction project.
In recognition of its beauty and the historical significance, Pope John Paul II designated the Cathedral of St. Louis a Basilica. While Basilica often refers to the architectural style of the building, in the 20th century the buildings only earned that title by designation from the Pope.
The church features four domes – the central dome, which rises 143 feet from the floor to the red background which is symbolic of the power of God’s love; the west transept, which contains images of Jesus’ baptism and ascension to heaven; the east transept which portrays Christ’s resurrection and His appearance to Mary and his disciples; and the sanctuary dome, which has mosaic pictures of the 12 apostles bearing the symbols of their lives.
The amazing artwork leaves you craning your neck to peer up at the ceiling as you meander through the sanctuary.
There are also four small chapels surrounding the main hall – the blessed sacrament chapel, where photography is not allowed because it is reserved for private prayer and features a stunning red ceiling; the blessed virgin’s chapel, which was created by the Tiffany Company of New York in an Italian style; the all saints chapel, which is also the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany; and the all souls chapel, which was designed in the Reconstruction style, using black marble to symbolize death and white marble to symbolize resurrection or eternal life.
If all of that isn’t enough, there is also a museum in the basement, explaining how the mosaic is installed and the history of the building, as well as a crypt where two bishops are buried.
Whether you attend church or not, you should definitely go out of your way to visit this stunning building if you are in St. Louis.
– Craig Craker