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Art & Architecture Mosaic Art US (Missouri) US Travel

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

In March, I had the opportunity to visit The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Missouri. Named for the city’s patron, Saint Louis IX of France, the structure, according to a tourist guide, “combines architecture of Romanesque style on the exterior with a wondrous Byzantine style interior.” In other words, WOW.

Unmatched majesty in the Midwest

In March, I had the opportunity to visit The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, Missouri. Named for the city’s patron, Saint Louis IX of France, the structure, according to a tourist guide, “combines architecture of Romanesque style on the exterior with a wondrous Byzantine style interior.”

In other words, WOW.

Yes, I could bore you with a long list of overused adjectives that can’t possibly describe the grandeur of this unexpected delight. Instead, I’ll just get down to brass tacks and provide you with some details so you can surmise for yourself that Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, located in a bustling urban setting at 4431 Lindell Boulevard, is probably one of the Midwest’s best kept architectural secrets.

Our tour guide provided a very informative half-hour private tour. Between his knowledge and information gleaned from the beautiful guidebooks shown above, we learned that…

  • The cathedral structure, originally called Saint Louis Cathedral, was built over five years from 1907-1914.
  • The mosaics that adorn the cathedral were designed, produced, and installed from 1912-1988.
  • The mosaics were made by the Ravenna Mosaic Co. of St. Louis, a company founded by German father-and-son team Paul and Arno Heuduck primarily to create the Byzantine mosaics for the cathedral.
  • The cathedral, according to my guidebook published by the Friends of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, “combines the best of Byzantine, the style of the eastern half of the Roman Empire in the early Christian centuries, and of Romanesque — a combination used, among others, by the architects of the Basilica of Saint Mark Cathedral Church of Venice.”
  • The central dome soars 217 feet.
  • The dazzling mosaics are unmatched in the Western hemisphere and this one structure contains one of the largest collections in the world.
  • In 1997, Pope John Paul II designated the Cathedral of St. Louis as a Basilica in order to recognize its beauty and significance; since then, the structure has been known as The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. In 1999, Pope John Paul II presided over an evening prayer service at the basilica to conclude his trip to North America.

A view of the Central Dome

The central dome features brilliant red tesserae.

About those mosaics

  • 41.5 million pieces of glass were used to decorate the hundreds of mosaic artworks that cover nearly every interior surface within the basilica.
  • Seven thousand different colors of tesserae were used.
  • Thirty-eight different shades of gold mosaic were used.
  • There are 83,000 square feet of mosaics within the structure.
  • Twenty-five miles of scaffolding were erected to complete the mosaics.

The exterior of the building was simply too massive to photograph on my iPhone. Here’s a better shot courtesy of <a href="http://A.reyestena, CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons:

When we visited, the trees were still bare. This photo from Wikimedia Commons shows how the green of the trees picks up the green of the dome’s tile roof.

And now for the Narthex

The narthex, similar to an entry hall for gathering together before or after a service, features a barrel-vaulted ceiling and dazzling gold mosaics.

A view toward The Historic Bay and Dome

The historic dome features blue tesserae. The mosaics in this dome and bay feature the history of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, including important milestones of the establishment of the Catholic Church in St. Louis, and works of charity and services performed by area Catholic groups, such as parochial schools and Jesuit missionaries.

The Sanctuary Dome and Baldochino

The baldochino, shown at left above, hovers over the main altar.

More sights within

The Bishops Hall

Our visit lasted about an hour and a half. Due to our schedule, we didn’t have enough time to tour the Mosaic Museum located below the narthex. I did snap a few photos (see above).

The cathedral is located at 4431 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, Missouri 63108.

The cathedral’s visiting hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Mosaic Museum’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

Tours can be arranged for any size group. Tours are given Sundays at 1 p.m. and anytime Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

After our tour concluded, I snapped this quick picture of my daughter and son (center) walking with their significant others.

If you’re ever in the area, definitely carve out an hour or so to see this marvel for yourself. It’s an awe-inspiring place of worship that’s worthy of your time when visiting St. Louis.

Got a thing for cathedrals?

Here’s a post from northern Italy about another one.

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This is a photo of my daughter and I in Bologna, Italy in 2019. Now that school’s out for the summer (and all the pandemic travel restrictions are lifting–YAY!), I can get back to posting more regularly on this blog. Jump over to my teaching blog to read about my extremely full and rewarding teaching life.

By Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

One reply on “The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis”

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