Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

First, I hope I have not alarmed my readers.  I’m alive and in good health.  But I took a trip to St. Louis to watch an excellent chess tournament featuring none other than Magnus Carlsen.  (And kudos to the St. Louis Chess Club for putting it on very well!)  And I just did not have the time and energy to blog during my trip.

But I did walk over to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis nearby, having no idea what I was getting into.  I tend to turn my traditionalist nose up at modern architecture and so did not have high expectations.

Was I wrong!

The cathedral is just under 100 years old (and is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2014), but is an impressive jewel.  The Romanesque exterior is imposing and well proportioned, marred only by a rather silly statue in the garden.  But the massive Byzantine interior is what blew away my low expections.  Its glows with what is claimed to be the world’s largest collection of mosaics in one building.  Even in dim light (which is how I viewed it) the interior is luminous and awesome.

I am no expert on mosaics.  But I wonder how they found artisans to do such excellent work.  Most of it is does not have the cloying quality of modern church art, but seems to have been transported from the past.  I marveled at the excellence.  And the three domes, the massive proportions, and the luminous mosaics (particularly in dim light) inspired awe as cathedral architecture should.

A good collection of photos may be found here (although I can take issue with how they are photoshopped).  And here are two of my photos which I hope capture some of the atmosphere of the place.

Obviously, I do recommend a visit for those who happen to be in St. Louis.  I did not attend a service so I cannot venture an opinion on the worship there, but it seems to have a good reputation in that regard as well.  And seeing the 14th Century choir book in the basement museum is worth the modest charge.  (There is no charge to enter the cathedral, which is open most of the day for touring on most weekdays.)

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