April Square Tops: Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Since it is Good Friday, I thought this “top” would be appropriate – it is the dome inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem,  which was built on what is believed to be the site of both the crucifixion and the tomb where Jesus was buried.
20190114_111307 Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The church as it stands today is the same church that was built in the 12th century in the time of the Crusades. Here are some more photos I took there.


Entrance to the courtyard of the church


Courtyard outside the church



Lots of tourists file past the elaborate altar.


It was the most ornate church I had ever seen.


The church has several chapels and altars.
Within the church are the last four stations of the cross on the Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus walked carrying the cross.




Stairway to the lower level


Thursday Doors: A Walk Through Schärding, Austria

On the 4th of July, the day we spent the morning in Passau, Germany, we opted for an afternoon tour to the small town of Schärding, Austria (population approx. 5,000). Passau and Schärding are essentially border towns.  We even crossed a bridge on the Inn River that had a small metal plaque in the middle with D (Deutschland – Germany) on one side and Ö (Österreich – Austria) on the other!
The town of Schärding is a major port on the Inn River which is the dividing line between Bavaria in Germany and the Austrian state of Upper Austria.

The Bavarian family Wittelsbach owned the town until 1779. In the Middle Ages, due to its location, Schärding became a center of trade, particularly for salt, timber, ores, wine, silk, glass, grain, textiles and livestock. Originally the town was fortified; sections of the wall remain, but the castle that was originally there is no longer.

Schärding’s most beautiful feature is its central square with its rows of colorful, gabled buildings. The buildings are color coded so that illiterate people in past centuries would know what the building was used for. For example, the town hall (Rathaus) was yellow, and pharmacies were green. Nowadays, next to the Rathaus, the green building is a charming hotel, Hotel Stiegenwirt.


The town’s skyline is dominated by St. George Church. It is Roman Catholic; more than 80% of the town’s residents identify themselves as Roman Catholic.

When I was not attending a workshop to make herbal salt (I ended up not keeping it – the salt content was way too high for me!), I joined Dale to explore the streets of the town.
Two interesting clocks!
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Schärding’s coat of arms is painted on the side of a building.
Historically, Schärding’s population suffered an epidemic of the plague. A plague pole was erected when the epidemic was over, to thank the Virgin Mary for saving people from the plague.
There is a statue to St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, in the center of a fountain. The fountain is hard to see in this photo because it was surrounded by construction zone fences.
Looking out toward the river from Durchgang Wasstertor.
I don’t know what these masks were for, but they look like instruments of torture!
There was also this display of possibly religious relics, near St. George Church.
And now…Schärding doors!

Posted for Norm’s Thursday Doors 1/16/20.

Some historical information obtained from Wikipedia’s article on Schärding.

Thursday Doors: Two Chicago Churches

I am entering this post into Norm’s Thursday Doors, as part of my tour of Chicago’s places of worship. Today I feature two Roman Catholic churches, St. Edward Church and St. Gregory the Great Church, both on the north side.

We visited St. Edward Roman Catholic Church during Open House Chicago, having put it on my “must see” list because it contains a painted replica of the Bayeux Tapestry. We had seen the original in Bayeux, France only a few months before.20191019_11582320191019_115850
St. Edward’s take on the story of the tapestry focuses on Edward who had been king of England and his benevolence as king. He was very pious and supposedly saw visions and cured people by his touch, which later earned him the status of a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Edward was childless and William of Normandy was his cousin.

In Normandy, France, we didn’t hear much about Edward. There the emphasis was on William, Duke of Normandy (also known as “the Conqueror”), who invaded England in 1066 and took the English throne from Harold, who had succeeded Edward as king.  Harold did not have long to rule: he became king in January of 1066, following Edward’s death, and William’s invasion, known as the Battle of Hastings, happened later that same year.
The replica was painted in oils on the ceiling of the narthex of St. Edward Church by Mae Connor-Anderson and is about 75 feet long. It is not complete, containing only 24 scenes and the Latin inscriptions were removed. The 24 scenes tell of St. Edward’s role in the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
The merger of the Saxon and Norman cultures created a new culture from which the English language evolved. Government was a mix of Norman and Saxon traditions.
St. Edward Parish was founded in 1899 and its current church building was dedicated in 1940.

This is one of the doors from the narthex leading into the sanctuary. There are several of these which all have the same design.
Confessional and confessional door

The stained glass windows throughout the sanctuary depict many important events in Christianity and the life of Jesus Christ. The pair pictured below depicts the birth of Jesus and his presentation in the temple with Simeon.


St. Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church has been serving the north side of Chicago since 1904, when immigrants from Luxembourg petitioned for a new parish. Its congregation today comprises many immigrant and ethnic groups.
Although it was one of the sites open to the public during Open House Chicago, my visit there was with a friend for a concert by International Chamber Artists, who perform there often. The music director at the church arranges these and other concerts and is a fine musician himself.

St. Gregory is absolutely gorgeous inside. It was built in the 1920s in Norman Gothic style. It has a lavishly decorated ceiling and an intricate white reredos* behind the altar. The pulpit, shrines and stations of the cross were all hand-carved in Germany. The windows are made of English and jewel glass.

The door at the front of the church…
was not actually where we entered. Because we were ushers for the concert, we had to arrive an hour early to help with the preparation for the concert. Here is the door we entered.
You will notice that this and other doors in the church have small windows with diamond shapes in them.
The main sanctuary with its colorful and intricate decoration.
The main altar, with its white reredos in front of the back wall.20191103_144204
Shrine to the Virgin Mary, common in Catholic churches (St. Edward has one also, pictured above).
Inside the front entrance door
Confessional and its door

An inner door – I noticed that the diamond shapes all had pictures, symbols or Greek writing inside them.
I began to look at these more closely and saw a variety of pictures, each one unique.
On the church’s web site is their mission statement and that, guided by the Holy Spirit, they are committed to:
*Celebrating and sharing God’s goodness by providing beautiful experiences of prayer and worship
*Providing opportunities for people to grow in their faith, hope, and love
*Extending the healing of Christ into the lives of all people so that they may come to know and share in the love Christ has for our world
*Offering opportunities for fellowship, hospitality, and service
*Evangelizing (spreading) the Good News of Jesus Christ through experiences of the fine arts

Of the two churches, I found St. Gregory to be the more beautiful and it has more interesting doors, but I enjoyed looking at the paintings of the tapestry panels at St. Edward, which were explained in a booklet the docents were giving out.

*What is a reredos? Promounced “RARE-eh-dahs,”according to Miriam Webster online, it is an ornamental wood or stone screen or partition wall behind the altar of a church. The term’s first known use was in the 14th century.

St. Edward Church – publications obtained at the church
St. Gregory the Great Church – the church’s web site and Open House Chicago web site.

Thursday Doors: Walking Tour of Regensburg

July 2-3, 2019

We arrived in Regensburg by bus, where our new ship was waiting for us. We had been on the Viking Gefjon up until our arrival in Nuremberg, but the ship could not proceed south on the Danube because of a broken lock! So a sister ship, the Viking Sigyn, which was coming north, became our new home for the rest of the trip. All the passengers on each of the ships were transferred from one ship to the other, retaining the same stateroom number. Although the staff was different, our activity director, Alex, made the switch with us.  Because of this unusual situation, we arrived in time to do some exploring along the waterfront in Regensburg before it got dark, and we stayed docked there overnight.

For Norm’s Thursday Doors, please join me on a walking tour in the medieval center of Regensburg! Founded by the Romans in 179 CE, it is one of Germany’s oldest towns and is the 4th largest in Bavaria. Its original name was Casta Regina, which means “Fortress by the River Regen.” It was lucky to be spared major bombing during WWII, so many of its medieval structures remain intact.


The stone portion of this wall is the original from medieval times.


Our guide shows us what remains of this town gate – the dark colored areas are what still exists from the original structure.


More of the (reconstructed) medieval wall that surrounded the town.


Entrance to Villapark, 1.5 hectares, which was planned and begun in 1856-57 and was restored in 2013-14 according to the original plan.

The 12th century old stone bridge was used during the Crusades on the route to the Holy Land.

Porta Praetoria – another section of the original medieval wall

I could totally relate to this sign! 😀
Cobblestone street in the “old town.”
This building is called “Goliath House” due to the painting on the side. The Schindlers (of Schindler’s List fame) lived here at one time.
Patrician building – the patrons, or rulers, of the town would build a tower that was the highest in town. A new patron would build a taller tower. These towered buildings would house the city government – the rathaus, or town hall. This pink tower still stands but it is not the most recent. It is now used as a student dormitory!
Here is a wonderfully delicious doorway to walk through!
Lots of construction was going on in the old town when we were there.
Looking across a street (with limited access due to construction) at two doors for the “price” of one! Probably noisy at the time for the inhabitants of nos. 3 and 5!
Take a little rest or…
…shop for jewelry and pet a friendly dog!
This is Neupfarrkirche, built on the site of a destroyed Jewish synagogue after the Jews were expelled from the city. It is now an evangelical church.
King Maximillian had protected the Jews but when he died in 1519, the town destroyed the synagogue and drove the Jews out. Inside the church is an exhibit about the church’s history and the Jewish community of Regensburg.

The townspeople also destroyed the Jewish cemetery after the expulsion of the Jews. Some of their gravestones have been incorporated into walls.DSC01681
A Jewish community developed in Regensburg again when they were allowed to return in 1669 but they were not able to dedicate a new synagogue until 1841. It was demolished in 1907 for fear of collapse and another synagogue was built on a different site in 1912 when the Jewish population had grown to about 600.  The synagogue was destroyed in 1938 during Kristallnacht by the Nazis. A new synagogue has been under construction since 2018.

This is a “stumble stone” that tells the name of a person who lived here, that died in one of the Nazi camps.
Another No. 3!
We reached the Domplatz, site of the Cathedral of St. Peter.
20190703_111422.jpgThe Gothic Cathedral of St. Peter was built in the 1200s using whatever materials they had, so it is a patchwork of sandstone and limestone. Here you can see this “patchwork.”
20190703_111208The spires were not added until 1868 on the order of King Ludwig I, whose statue is in the Domplatz.

Under the cross in front is St. Peter in a boat.
Here’s a close up (you can see that Peter is holding an oar!):
The cathedral’s doors

The Cathedral of St. Peter has the largest hanging organ in the world.
Pope Benedict came to the cathedral during his tenure as pope.
Inside the cathedral are beautifully vivid stained glass windows, a number of statues and religious relics.

Continuing on our walk in the old town, there were many doors to admire.
Such colorful souvenirs for sale!

This is the entrance to a restaurant.
Altes Rathaus – old town hall (notice the patrician tower!)

Regensburg is a cultural center and has an opera house. This bodega serves wine and tapas. The mural is from the opera Carmen, the theme of the bodega. Carmen was staged here at one time.

The drinking age here for wine and beer is 16. To buy hard liquor or cigarettes, you have to be 18. If you want to purchase cigarettes from a vending machine like this one, you have to insert your ID for verification.
There is even a golf museum in Regensburg!
We entered a little church, Stiftskirche St. Johann

Regensburg is considered one of the top destinations to visit in Germany. Its medieval center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sources for this post:
Author’s notes from July  3 visit
Regensburg on Trip Advisor
Attractions in Regensburg 
Wikipedia, Regensburg
Wikipedia, Regensburg Synagogue

Nuremberg’s St. Sebaldus Church

Nuremberg’s St. Sebaldus is a medieval church, built 1225-1273, and Lutheran since the Reformation. It takes its name from Sebaldus, an 8th century hermit and missionary who is the patron saint of Nuremberg. We visited this magnificent church during our tour of Nuremberg on July 2, 2019 as a stop on our Viking river cruise.20190702_110336
St. Sebaldus was originally built as a Romanesque basilica and in the 14th century several changes were made, including widening of the side aisles, making the steeples higher, and building the chancel. Two towers were added in the 15th century and in the 17th century it was remodeled in Baroque style. During World War II, the church suffered severe damage; undamaged areas of the old interior include the Shrine of St. Sebaldus and the stained glass windows.


The Shrine of St. Sebaldus can be seen behind the altar and in front of the stained glass windows. The windows and shrine remained undamaged during WWII.

The church contains beautiful religious art, both inside and out. Because this post is a contribution to Norm’s Thursday Doors, many of the photos below are of exterior and interior doors of the church.


A main entrance to St. Sebaldus Church



One of the public entrances is this one – note the modern reliefs on and above the door.


There are several reliefs of Biblical scenes on the outside walls of the church.

DSC01601More exterior doors:20190702_135723


This is a door to something, but not for people to walk through.

Shrine of St. Sebaldus

One of the things I found fascinating was the juxtaposition of the old and the modern inside and outside St. Sebaldus Church.


Diorama of the Ascension of Christ


Picture of medieval painting uncovered on one of the medieval walls


Ornamentation on the arches under the ceiling



Votive candles

There was an organ in the church by the 14th century, and another was installed in the 15th century. The main organ was built in 1440-41 by Heinrich Traxdorf and until its destruction during an Allied bombing raid in early 1945, it was one of the oldest playable organs in the world. The new organ was installed in 1975.




Thursday Doors: Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is the most noticeable building as you approach this city on the north Rhine River, with its Gothic spires soaring high above the landscape. At 157 meters (515 ft.) ir the third tallest twin-spired church in the world. The towers for its spires make its façade the tallest in the world.
From the river it is quite imposing, close as it is to the riverfront.  DSC00868
20190627_223155This Catholic cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany, with 20,000 visitors average per day.

It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.


Front main entrance

Details above front door:


The cathedral’s official name in English is the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter (in German, Hohe Domkirche Sankt Petrus).

Inside the main transept:



Front doors from the inside

Construction of the cathedral was begun in 1248 but was halted, unfinished, in 1473. Work did not recommence until the 1840s (!) and was completed according to its Medieval plan in 1880.
20190627_154133When construction began in 1248, the site had been occupied by several previous structures; from the 4th century CE (AD) on, these were Christian buildings.

Legend has it that Kris Kringle (Germany’s Santa Claus) would take naughty kids to the cathedral, where he would punish them and if they resisted, he would drop them off the South Tower! That must have been a great incentive for children to be good! Visitors can go up the South Tower today – that is, when Kris Kringle is not around!!

Tower details:


Model of the finial o top of the Cathedral towers in original size: 9.5 m high, 4.6 m wide

DSC00911.JPGIn the 19th century, there was a resurgence of romantic interest in the Middle Ages, and with the original plan for the façade having been discovered, the Protestant Prussian Court gave its approval for the cathedral’s completion. The Court provided a 3rd of its cost to improve relations with its growing number of Catholic subjects.

Stained glass:

On August 14, 1880, the completion of the cathedral was celebrated as a national event, 632 years after it had been begun! It was the tallest building in the world until the completion of the Washington Monument four years later.

As in most large cathedrals, there are relics and burials. Many graves were discovered during the excavations in the 19th century.


Door to a crypt

Although the cathedral suffered 14 hits by Allied aerial bombings during World War II, and was badly damaged, it nevertheless remained standing in a city which was mostly destroyed.

Repairs of the war damage were completed in 1956. Repair and maintenance work is constant due to wind, rain and pollution which eat away at the stone, so there is almost always scaffolding on some part of the cathedral.*
As we were leaving, I saw this most unusual door on one side of the cathedral.DSC00910
Both inside and out, the Cologne Cathedral is the most impressive and magnificent cathedral I have ever seen!

Posted for Norm’s Thursday Doors, 8/29/19.

*Historical information was obtained from the Wikipedia article, Cologne Cathedral.


Journey to Egypt, Part 6: Coptic Churches & Ben Ezra Synagogue

December 25, 2018

We left the Egyptian Museum ready for lunch. We boarded our bus and headed to Old Cairo, where we would go to a restaurant for lunch and to the Christian Quarter of Old Cairo.

At Felfela Restaurant we were greeted by this hookah-smoking dwarf.
The restaurant had interesting décor.

Our tummies satisfied, we boarded our bus again and headed to the Christian Quarter. Here are some scenes taken from the bus.
Near the Marriott Hotel:

Seen on the street near the restaurant – we would see many more stray cats.
Street scenes:


From our vantage point, we could see the crowded commercial areas.



Mosque minarets



More crowds


St. Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, also known as the Hanging Church, is one of the oldest Christian churches in Egypt; its history dates to the 3rd century CE (AD), when there was first built a church on the site.

The name “Hanging Church” comes from its location above a gatehouse of the Roman fortress, Babylon Fortress – its nave is suspended above a passageway.


Approaching the church – the fortress is behind the wall on the left.

The ruins of Babylon fortress20181225_140308d


The tower of the fortress is now below ground because the builders of the church used palm logs and stones to create the foundation on which it was built.


Entrance gate



This sign is written in Greek and Arabic.

This doorway leads into the courtyard shown in the next picture.



There are 29 steps leading up to the church entrance.

Mosaics on the walls of the courtyard

The church was built in Basilican style (rectangular buildings with a central nave and aisles, and a raised platform for the altar in front)  and is meant to resemble the shape of Noah’s Ark. The church was mostly rebuilt in the 10th century and many restorations have occurred since then, major repairs and restoration most recently made in 2011.
In 1047 Cairo became the official and fixed residence of the Coptic pope at the Hanging Church.


Mohamed points out our approximate location on a map of the Holy Journey in Egypt.

Entering the church proper
Church interior, influenced by Arabic design and patterns
Orthodox churches do not have statues (which they consider to be idolatry), so Christian symbols and pictures are represented by icons. The Hanging Church has 110 icons, most of them dating to the 18th century.

The main altar design is made of ebony with inlaid ivory.
Over the altar is a row of seven icons, with Christ seated on a throne in the center.

Icons above altar

The icons are from Left to Right: St. Peter, Archangel Gabriel, Virgin Mary, Christ on throne, St. John the Baptist, Archangel Michael, St. Paul. This photo was downloaded from Wikipedia article The Hanging Church.



In this photo and the photo above, above the icons on red velvet curtains are representations of several Coptic crosses, made with ebony and ivory.



View from inside one of the side chapels

Chapels: note the designs of Coptic crosses above and along the sides of the central icons.



Priestly relics

View of Babylon Fortress from inside the church


Ceiling design


From the Hanging Church, we went next door to the Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus, known as Abu Serga. It is also referred to as the Cavern Church, and is believed to be where the Holy Family rested at the end of their voyage into Egypt.
Sergius and Bacchus were soldier-saints martyred in the 4th century in Syria by the Roman emperor Maximium.
Church altar
This church is where many of the early Patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected, the first being Patriarch Isaac (681-692).
The church was built in the 4th century and finished in the 5th century. It was burned in the 8th century and restored in the 9th century. It has been continuously restored since that time.

The most interesting part of the church is the crypt in which Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus were to have lived for three months, possibly when Joseph worked at the fortress (he was a carpenter).

This is the room where the Holy family spent three months. It is 10 meters deep and when the Nile River rises, it often floods.
I was very moved by this place, picturing Mary and Joseph with their small child trying to keep warm in this space. Below is the well used by the family.
It is always significant to stand in the place where one’s ancestors or in this case, where Jesus, lived, sharing that space with the spirit of those from long ago.

After that, we visited another place of Biblical significance: Ben Ezra Synagogue.

We were not allowed to take any photographs inside the synagogue, so my photos are only from the outside. It is famous for the fact that it is believed to be the spot where baby Moses was found, and later where Moses prayed.

There are very few Jews left in Egypt; tens of thousands left at the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948. Now there are less than a dozen Jews left, yet a few dedicated individuals preserve this holy place.


Exterior wall of Ben Ezra Synagogue

The synagogue is not used as a place of worship or study today; it is instead primarily a museum.
It is believed the synagogue predates 882 CE, based on documents found in a store room (see below), and probably was built prior to Islamic rule. However, little is known about the original building. In about 1012 Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered the destruction of all Jewish and Christian places of worship.
In this synagogue, a store room was found in the 19th century that contained a treasure trove of ancient secular and religious manuscripts written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Judeo-Arabic.  The collection is known as the Cairo Geniza and is now divided among several academic libraries.

This is the location of a well on the spot where Moses was said to be found floating in a basket on the Nile River.

For more about Egypt’s Jewish community, go to Egypt’s last Jews aim to keep heritage alive in Times of Israel, March 26, 2017.

Our Lord In the Attic Church

Jan. 30, 2018

Our Lord in the Attic church and museum is a 2-minute walk from the Oude Kerk. “Number 38,” the woman at the Old Church told us. That helped us locate the place. 033 (35)

Inside, we were given headsets in English. First we sat for a short video about the history of Our Lord In the Attic church.

Our Lord In the Attic – a Catholic church built on the top two floors of three adjacent houses,  was built after Holland’s break with Spain. Once Catholic Spain was out of Dutch religious life, the Protestants took over – more specifically, the Calvinists – who prohibited Catholicism. But Amsterdam, being a tolerant city (something they pride themselves as being throughout history), turned a blind eye to Catholic churches “hidden” in houses. The government knew perfectly well that Catholics were continuing to worship in home-based churches, but didn’t do anything about it as long as it was officially hidden. Meanwhile, other churches in town that had been Catholic were converted into Protestant churches, which at that time were austere and simple, free of almost all ornamentation. The churches were stripped of their Catholic notions of ornate expressions to glorify God, particularly removing statues which were considered idolatry.

After the video, we took a self-guided tour following arrows and climbing staircases to view and hear about the different rooms in the houses and the kind of people that lived there.

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This is only one of several staircases we climbed!


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The staircases got increasingly difficult to climb – this is the last one!



The largest house, with higher ceilings, belonged to the man who commissioned and financed the project. The furnishings in his house were those of a richer person.

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On the table is a chime ornament – when candles are lit at the bottom, it causes the top to spin and make bell chiming sounds.

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That’s me taking a picture with my cellphone – my camera battery had died!


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Wealthy people would have ornamental fireplaces and urns, as well as framed paintings on the walls.

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In the other houses, the furnishings were quite modest. We could press a button to hear more stories about certain rooms, but I didn’t do that more than once. I was impatient to see the church itself.

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This “bedroom” is in one of the more modest houses – it reminded me of Harry Potter’s quarters under the stairs! This room would be closed off when people came to worship.

The church stretched across the top five floors (including the attics) of the three adjacent houses. Being a rather narrow space, two balconies were built to accommodate more worshippers. 1-30 Our Lord in the Attic Church


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When one entered, there was a basin of holy water built into the wall. (Catholics cross themselves with their fingers dipped in holy water as they enter their church for mass.) Also, there was a Nativity scene (I’d noticed several Christmas decorations around Amsterdam, even though it was almost February.)


I’d never seen so many sheep surrounding the Nativity stable! I guess the shepherd who went to see baby Jesus had a large flock!

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Another Nativity scene, by the priest’s quarters

By the time I got to the first balcony, Dale was already impatient to leave, saying we were running out of time.  It was past noon and we had to have time to have lunch as well as walk to the start of our walking tour.  So I never got to the second balcony, nor saw the confessional or the priest’s quarters, because I interrupted the tour by going back the way I’d come. Dale apparently did not do this because he saw all these things. (Many of these photos are his.)

I recommend both Our Lord In the Attic church and the Oude Kerk to be on your itinerary if you visit Amsterdam!

Photo Essay: Cathedrals of St. Louis, Part 2


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.


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.


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


The beautiful ceiling and organ

Marble baptismal font with scene of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in mosaic tiles on the front.



Jesus with Margaret Mary



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



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.




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


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.


The sanctuary, viewed from the narthex (the chairs were placed in a circle around the labyrinth in preparation for Holy Week).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Rear stained glass windows with organ


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.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

carved bishop’s chair

KODAK Digital Still Camera

KODAK Digital Still Camera






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


A mosaic dedicated in memory of Daschall Carr, 1897


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.


Photo Essay: Cathedrals of St. Louis, Part 1: The Basilica

My husband and I took a 3-day trip to St. Louis, Missouri this week. While there, we saw three cathedrals which were quite awe-inspiring.

We first visited the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, a Roman Catholic church. The construction of the cathedral was begun in 1907. The architecture of the exterior is Romanesque, with granite walls, rose windows and two towers. The main dome rests on an elevated drum. The cathedral was completed in 1988.

The exterior was magnificent in itself, enhanced by the magnolia and cherry blossoms.
20160320_155508The architecture of the interior is mostly Byzantine, as well as Romanesque. The interior ceilings, domes, soffits, arches and part of the walls are covered with gold mosaic tile, with scenes and portraits in mosaic. It is spectacular. I felt almost as though I was back in Saint Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg! It was definitely a jaw-dropping experience!
20160320_150456The cathedral contains 83,000 square feet of mosaic art created by twenty artists which took 75 years to install.

The altar

The main altar

There are several interior domes. The central dome, pictured pictured below right, rises 143 feet from the floor to the central spotlight, symbolic of the power of God’s love. The sanctuary dome, pictured above and below left, pictures mosaics of the twelve apostles.

The sanctuary dome

The mosaics were created with over 41,500,00 glass tile, using more than 7,000 shades of color, which tell the story of the Catholic faith from creation to the last judgment. There are scenes from the Old and New Testaments, as well as illustrating more recent developments in the Church in North America, and particular St. Louis.

The main altar and dome were flanked by two small chapels, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel (which we were not allowed to photograph) and the Blessed Virgin’s Chapel, pictured below.


Below: East Transept. The stations of the cross are located on the plain walls of the east and west transepts.



Beautiful mosaic of the mother and child, with angels on either side.


The All Souls Chapel (below) is designed in the Viennese Reconstructionist architectural style. Black marble is used to symbolize death and white marble is used to symbolize resurrection or eternal life. The statue is of the Risen Christ.

The narthex is a good example of Byzantine style art and architecture.  The mosaic panels contain scenes about the life of Saint Louis IX, King of France (1217-1270) and patron saint of the city. 20160320_152456

The swirling green vine is symbolic of Christ. He is portrayed in the central mosaic as “Teacher” (below left).


There is a mosaic museum in the basement of the cathedral, which explains some of the mosaics and how they are made.

Mosaic artist's workshop

Mosaic artist’s workshop

The mosaicist translates the artist’s final design into the mosaic medium. When he receives the final design from the artist, he traces the design on brown paper in reverse. The brown paper design is then cut up into small pieces that the mosacist can fit on his studio bench. He then selects the pieces of tile or tessarae, choosing from thousands of colors to reproduce the artist’s final design. He pastes the small pieces of tessarae onto the brown paper. Although the mosaicist does not manufacture the glass pieces, he often does have to cut pieces to fit the shape of the design. The gold tessarae are only installed once the colored designs are completed.



Other objects in the museum: an organ and priests’ vestments.

In recognition of the beauty and historical significance of this cathedral and the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Pope John Paul II designated the Cathedral of St. Louis a Basilica in 1997.