A trip to St. Louis, Missouri saw our family going up the Arch, visiting the St Louis Zoo, taking the Anheuser-Busch tour and visiting the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica.
While the cathedral may not be on most people’s lists of St Louis’ top attractions, it should be. The cathedral is truly awe-inspiring. I have visited many of the major European cathedrals in England, Italy, France and Germany, and the St Louis Cathedral Basilica compares quite favorably.
Construction on the cathedral began in 1907. It was designed by George Barnett and features a Romanesque exterior with granite walls. When you approach the cathedral, you are struck with its heavy, imposing appearance.
However, once inside you may be surprised at its bright, complex Byzantine appearance. This look is due to the cathedral’s ubiquitous mosaic art: 41.5 million pieces of glass tesserae (individual mosaic pieces), placed by the German firm of August Wagner. Twenty different artists worked on the mosaics, which were installed between 1912 and 1988. The cathedral now boasts one of the largest mosaic collections in the world.
In addition to the nave and transept, the cathedral houses several chapels conducive to prayer and meditation. Of particular note is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, which houses bronze gates from the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair.
Six years to the day after laying the cornerstone, the first Holy Mass was held in the cathedral in 1914. Pope Paul VI called the cathedral “the outstanding cathedral of the Americas” and Pope John Paul II designated the cathedral a basilica in 1997. He also visited it during his historic trip to America in 1999.
If you would like to visit, it’s important to note that this is the “new cathedral” in St Louis (we asked directions, and were asked whether we wanted the “old cathedral” or the “new cathedral”). There was ample free parking available on the streets surrounding the cathedral.
The St Louis Cathedral is open daily from 7-5 and is free for self-guided tours. Guided tours are available at 1 on Sundays and from 10-3 Mondays to Fridays, but you must contact the cathedral ahead of time if you would like a tour (317-373-8240) in order to guarantee a reservation. You may take photos inside, and there are certainly many photographic spots.
The basement of the cathedral houses a museum about the building’s history and the mosaics. The gardens surrounding the cathedral are beautiful as well, and are open to the public.
Plan to make the St Louis Cathedral Basilica as a must-see on your next visit to St Louis.