Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 21, 2006
Church houses largest mosaic art collection
Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is dubbed 'religious art palace'
St. Louis of France – August 25
By TED FITZGERALD
Installation of the 41 million pieces of glass took 76 years to complete.
A log church was built six years later and by 1834, a huge new diocese encompassing a great part of the West saw construction of the Old Cathedral, still a much-visited historic site.
The city began to attract a variety of religious orders, including the Jesuits who were heavily involved in missionary work in the far West, and soon became a noted centre of Catholic activity.
Later, when a decision had been made to replace the Old Cathedral, it took three bishops and 30 years before architects and a final plan were decided upon. The design, submitted in 1896 by local firm G. Barnett and Associates, involved a Romanesque exterior with twin bell towers and a large central dome. The interior would be a Byzantine riot of marble and mosaics.
Impressive as the outside of the building is, the inside is a one-of-a-kind work of art, the "religious art palace" envisioned by the architect. It is said to contain the world's largest collection of mosaics, assembled by 20 artists to cover 83,000 square feet. Installation of the 41 million pieces of glass took 76 years to complete and, in 8,000 shades of colour, depict Church history from the creation to the Last Judgment.
Even before entering the nave of the huge church, visitors could spend hours studying the artwork in the basilica narthex or porch, a veritable shrine to the building's patron.
Beyond this, a formal tour helps novices to absorb even a little of the stupendous nave, bay, sanctuary, three interior domes, and two transepts and several minor chapels. Each area of mosaic is dedicated to a particular theme, from biblical events to New World saints, while the focal point of the enormous church is the main altar, housed within a huge baldachin, a model of the basilica.
As might be expected, the parish church of such a large archdiocese is an extremely busy place, supporting all the usual church organizations and celebrating important liturgical feast days with enthusiasm. Three Masses are celebrated daily at the main altar of the basilica.
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.