Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

My visit to this site, on May 12, 2012, took my breath away. I had absolutely no idea that anything this spectacular even existed in this country . . . I thought that cathedrals of this magnitude were all located throughout Europe.

The exterior structure is beautiful – essentially Romanesque in architectural styling. Also of singular beauty are the artfully manicured grounds, gardens, and fountains surrounding the cathedral, all of which are carefully maintained.

Even with the beauty of the structure itself, I was completely unprepared for the staggering magnificence of the interior, which is actually Byzantine in design. Throughout the entire cathedral, there are vibrantly colored Byzantine mosaics constructed of millions of custom-made tessara, many of which are made of gold. Exquisite murals throughout the cathedral provide a visual history of not only the cathedral and the beliefs held within, but also much of the history of St. Louis. Every detail of rich religious significance is carefully thought out and included, often in minute proportion, on virtually every surface. Every door panel is embellished with original artwork . . . as well as every column, every vestibule. I simply do not have words that can adequately portray the astounding degree of thought, time, and exquisite artistry that was lovingly integrated into this masterpiece. There is no doubt, whatsoever, that this is truly a national treasure. No matter what your particular religious affiliation, I truly believe you will feel close to God within these walls. As I walked through, I marveled at how much this reminded me of the descriptions of sumptuous Heaven as related in the Bible.

As you can well imagine, an undertaking of this magnitude took quite a bit of time and money to complete. After a comprehensive campaign to raise the funds to begin building, the necessary one million dollars (a HUGE amount back in the late 1890’s!) was attained, and it was thought that building could begin in earnest. Alas! That was not yet to be, as a catastrophic tornado blew through St. Louis shortly thereafter, and the Church leaders felt that it would be unconscionable to keep the money when the lives & homes of so many people were left in ruins. They returned ALL the money to the people, and slowly worked toward rebuilding the necessary funds. Raising the money took longer this time, and once they had regained the one million dollar sum, they realized that it would no longer build the same size structure that was originally planned. Believe it or not, this magnificent cathedral is much smaller than it was originally meant to be. Even so, I think it is fabulous and I cannot imagine it being any more perfect than it is.

As we toured the cathedral, we were provided with a wonderful, informative tour. One of the interesting facts we learned (there were many!!!), was that Pope John Paul II actually said Mass here. That was a very proud day for the people who worship here, as well as a fitting tribute to those who worked so diligently to bring this beautiful basilica to the region. We happened to visit when there was a wedding scheduled, and although we weren’t (of course) allowed to remain during the wedding, we did get to see the wedding party and the bride . . . she was one very nervous young lady, indeed! Speaking of brides, this cathedral is so incredibly beautiful that I commented that it would “almost be worth getting married again to get married in here”. Of course, if you know me, you know what weight the “almost” in that sentence carries . . . I’m positive that nothing at all could induce me to take that long walk down the aisle again – not even this one. To say I hated being married is putting it mildly. Perhaps it is just as well that I loathe the thought . . . information gleaned during the tour revealed that it costs $2000 for a non-parishoner to marry at the Basilica, and $600 for a parishoner. That is due, in large part, to the fact that at today’s current electrical rates, it costs $10.00 per MINUTE to light this magnificent structure. Having personally seen this extraordinary gem, I feel it is money and energy very well spent.

The final thought that I will offer in regard to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is that if you haven’t seen it, you are doing yourself a disservice that I hope you will rectify as soon as possible. Even aside from a moving and beautiful religious experience, the artwork alone is well worth a journey to visit.

Last modified on: May 17th 2012.