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Saint Louis, Missouri: The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

About the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in Saint Louis, Missouri:


At the beginning of the 20th century, due to the growth of Saint Louis, plans were made to build a Cathedral to replace the former Cathedral, the Cathedral of Saint Louis, King of France.  Cost of the proposed structure would be $1,000,000  (some 33 million dollars in terms of 2023 dollars). This was an enormous sum at the time, as you can imagine, but plans were made regardless.  The design of George Barnett of the firm of Barnett, Haynes and Barnett of St. Louis, a synthesis of Byzantine and Romanesque design, was chosen by a selection committee. On May 1, 1907, ground was broken, and construction began. Work on the Cathedral would continue for another 80 years.

Tiffany and Company of New York began work on the two chapels on the west side of the building.  The high altar was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Cullen McBride, whose daughter Kathleen would become the new Cathedral’s first bride. That first wedding happened in 1914, just two days after the first Holy Mass was celebrated in the new and still incomplete building. The first Mass was celebrated six years to the day after the laying of the cornerstone.

One milestone followed another: In 1915, the new Kilgen organ, now displayed in the Cathedral Basilica’s Mosaic Museum), was dedicated. The Archbishop presided over the first Solemn Mass celebrated at the new High Altar on All Souls Day of 1916, and in 1917, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was used for the first time. Its bronze gates had graced the Austrian exhibit at the Saint Louis 1904 World’s Fair.

the cathedral basilica of saint louis in saint louis, missouriThe Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis is the site of the world’s largest ceiling mosaic, covering 83,000 square feet, consisting of 41.5 million hand placed glass tesserae pieces in more than 7,000 colors.The German firm of August Wagner was contracted to install the mosaics. The company set up shop in St. Louis, becoming the Ravenna Mosaic Company. Following the design of the artisans, Paul Heuduck undertook the red and gold designs of the transept galleries, then completed the Arch of Triumph and the Arch of Creation, followed by the pendentives underscoring the main dome and the Doctors of the Church pendentives surrounding the Sanctuary Dome.

It was an unforgettable occasion for all of Saint Louis when, on June 29, 1926, the Centennial of the creation of the Diocese of Saint Louis, saw 59 archbishops and priests gather for the ceremonies, including John Cardinal Bonzano, Apostolic Delegate to the United States. More than 100,000 people gathered along Lindell Boulevard to witness the procession of the Blessed Sacrament that evening.

In 1930, the mosaics depicting the life of Saint Louis were completed in the Cathedral’s narthex, visually preparing the visitor for the growing grandeur inside. Shortly after World War II, a sacristy was added to the north end of the structure. The Kilgen organ was replaced, and work on the mosaics continued. It was not to be completed until 1988, when the final two areas – the east and west transepts – were completed.

Photos courtesy Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

In 1997, the Cathedral was designated as a Cathedral Basilica by Pope John Paul II, who visited the Cathedral Basilica on his history-making trip to the United States in January of 1999. The symbols of its status – the tintinnabulum (bell) and the ombrellino (umbrella) – flank the High Altar reminding one and all of the special status as a Cathedral Basilica.

Even though the Cathedral Basilica was technically completed, there will be changes and additions as each generation adds its imprint to this very special sacred space. The Sacred Heart of Jesus Shrine, located in the west transept, is the most recent addition to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. It was consecrated by Archbishop Raymond Burke on June 17, 2007.

Finding the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in Saint Louis, Missouri:

Address:  4431 Lindell Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108

Tel:  +1 (314) 373-8200

email:  parish@cathedralstl.org

Click here for the official website of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in Saint Louis, MO.

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