Photo Essay: Cathedrals of St. Louis, Part 2

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The Old Cathedral (which was replaced by the Basilica upon its completion) of St. Louis is located near the famous Gateway Arch. Its exterior and interior stand in complete contrast to the Basilica. It is still a functioning Catholic church whose beauty lies in its simplicity.

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I love to eavesdrop on guided tours – I sidle over and discreetly listen to what the guide is saying, and I usually only manage to gather a snippet of information. What I heard a guide say in the Old Cathedral was that the most exquisitely carved statues were made of zinc, due to its malleability: more intricate detail is possible than would be possible with marble.

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Main altar. The red cloth is draped during Holy Week and symbolizes the blood of Jesus as he is crucified.

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The beautiful ceiling and organ
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Marble baptismal font with scene of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in mosaic tiles on the front.

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Jesus with Margaret Mary

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Below: The Old Cathedral from the side with Gateway Arch towering over it.

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The following day, we visited another cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopalian church. I have posted pictures of the reredos in this cathedral in a previous post.

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View of the side of the church, from where we parked our car. The flowering trees were quite lovely.

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In this post, I am posting more pictures of Christ Church Cathedral, along with further information about the striking example of reredos. I also correct an error made in the previous post about reredos: I named the figure to the right of Jesus as St. Peter, when it is actually St. John.

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The sanctuary, viewed from the narthex (the chairs were placed in a circle around the labyrinth in preparation for Holy Week).
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Rear stained glass windows with organ
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Reredos behind the altar
Reredos diagram
This diagram shows the identity and placement of each of the figures and scenes depicted on the reredos.

The reredos contains 52 figures in all, telling the story of Christianity – the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, saints, martyrs, leading up to the central figure of the crucified Christ.

The reredos measures 35 feet in height, with the central spire rising slightly higher. It weighs 160 tons and is made of Beer stone, obtained from the quarries near the town of Beer, close to the city of Exeter, England. Each piece was carved in the studios of sculptor Harry Hems in Exeter between 1909 and 1911.

KODAK Digital Still CameraWhen complete, it was transported to Saint Louis in 230 crates, without a single stone being even slightly damaged. Each piece was put into position under the personal supervision of Mr. Hems, along with skilled artisans from his studios. It took 23 1/2 months to carve, transport, and install the reredos.  The doors in the reredos and the gates in the altar rail are bronze, made by the Gorham Company of Providence, RI.

The reredos cost $75,000 and was a gift to the cathedral from Mrs. Christine Blair Graham, who saw examples of reredos in English churches and determined to have one commissioned for her church back home in St. Louis.

The reredos was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1911.

Christ Church Cathedral contained many other spectacular religious relics, including the many stained glass windows, an impressive organ, and a pulpit designed using only nails, depicting Jesus’ journey from his ministry to the cross.

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carved bishop’s chair

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Below: The ministry and passion of Christ, sculpted using nails to symbolize the nails that pierced his hands and feet.

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A mosaic dedicated in memory of Daschall Carr, 1897

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The beautiful and unique Christ Church Cathedral was well worth our time to see and admire. We were given a self-guided tour which we could use to identify each of the objects of interest, but mostly we took pictures of these awe-inspiring works of art.

 

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