Completed in the early 20th century, the mother church of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri, is one of the ultimate architectural highlights in the city.
Let’s discover some of the most interesting facts about the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, a structure also known as the Saint Louis Cathedral.
1. It’s located in the Central West End neighborhood of Saint Louis
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is the main Roman Catholic Church in Saint Louis, the second-largest city in Missouri.
The city was established near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and its metropolitan area is home to over 2.8 million inhabitants.
Because of this strategic location, the city has been important as a gateway to the west. The construction of the Gateway Arch commemorated this notion.
This monumental arch is located on the banks of the Mississippi in the heart of the city. The Saint Louis Cathedral is located just west in the Central West End Neighborhood of the city.
2. The church replaced the old Basilica of Saint Louis
The first Catholic church in St. Louis was constructed around 1770. That’s just 6 years after the city was established by fur trader Auguste Chouteau in February 1764.
The first stone building that served as the main parish church of the city was constructed in 1818. The first Basilica of Saint Louis, now known as the “Old Cathedral,” was constructed between 1831 and 1834.
This Neoclassical building is located just west of the Gateway Arch in the Gateway Arch National Park (although it’s not an integral part of the park).
The current Basilica was constructed to support the growing population of St. Louis as the Old Cathedral was getting outdated in the late 19th century.
3. Most parts of the building were completed between 1907 and 1914
The Old Cathedral had been the seat of the archbishop of St. Louis since the early 1830s, but the building became way too small several decades later.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis started planning the construction of a new building in the 1870s and funds were raised for this purpose.
It wasn’t until the year 1907 that a ceremony was conducted on te cleared grounds and the first stone of the building was laid a year later on October 18, 1908.
The roughly finished church was first used in the year 1914. It did take, however, until June 29, 1926, for the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis to be fully consecrated.
The cathedral was finally turned into a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
4. The church incorporates two early-medieval architectural styles
The St. Louis Cathedral Building Association was established on April 28, 1871, and the local architecture firm of Barnett, Haynes & Barnett was hired for the project.
The first impression of the building is that of a robust building with two massive towers and a central dome.
These styles were eventually replaced Gothic architecture which features pointy windows, arches, and spires, as opposed to the rounded features we can admire at Saint Louis Cathedral.
5. The interior of decorated with one of the largest mosaics in the world
The magic of the Cathedral Basilica of Louis really starts when you enter this remarkable building. Here you can find one of the most stunning interior decorations in the United States.
The installation of the mosaics on the interior walls of the churches was started in 1912 but wasn’t fully completed until the year 1988.
The reason why it took so long to complete this magnificent work of art is that contains over 41.5 million small tiles and it covers 7,700 square meters (83,000 square feet).
These incredible numbers make it the largest mosaic in the world outside of Russia. This alone is reason enough to visit this magnificent cathedral when you’re in the city.
More interesting facts about the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
6. Auguste Chouteau was a rich fur trader who is considered to be the founding father of St. Louis. He named the city in honor of King Louis IX of France (1214-1270), also known as “Saint Louis.”
Both the Old Cathedral and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis were named in honor of this French king. His reign has been described as the medieval Golden Age (although this can be taken with a grain of salt).
7. Just outside of the cathedral on its lawn, you can find a sculpture titled “The Angel of Harmony.” This sculpture was installed in 1999 and was donated by Adelaide Schlafly, the wife of Daniel Schlafly who promoted racial equality.
This remarkable sculpture was created by the Polish sculptor Wiktor Szostalo and is dedicated to harmony, peace, and racial justice.
8. The building can hold 2,500 people on the main floor and up to 5,000 if the galleries are included. the church has a length of 111 meters (35 feet) and is pretty wide too with a maximum width of 62 meters (204 feet).
9. The main dome of the building has a diameter of 24 meters (80 feet) and reaches a height of 44 meters (143 feet) inside the church. The exterior height o the dome is 69 meters (227 feet).
10. Just about every part of the interior walls, including the immense dome, is covered by the 41.5 million glass tesserae pieces that make up the entire mosaic decoration.
The level of detail integrated into this work makes it understandable why it took over 7 decades to complete the entire mosaic.