AAA/Greg Weeks
AAA/Greg Weeks
AAA Editor Notes
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is at 4431 Lindell Blvd. at jct. Newstead Ave. in the Central West End. Begun in 1907 and completed in 1914, this commanding Romanesque structure is a prominent St. Louis landmark with its ornately decorated exterior granite walls, massive twin towers and distinctive green-tiled dome.

Entering through the imposing oak doors is like stepping back in time. True to Byzantine tradition, the interior layout is a series of soaring domes and arches, with every square inch of the walls and columns adorned with intricate mosaics. Covering 83,000 square feet, they took more than 75 years to complete.

Millions of pieces of glass tessera depict biblical scenes from the Old and New Testaments, archdiocesan events and the life of King Louis IX of France, the cathedral's—and city's—namesake. Red and gold are the prevailing colors, executed in thousands of different shades. The baldachino over the main altar and the Italian-style mosaic work in the chapels and arcades on the church's west side were installed by different companies (more than 20 artists collaborated on the art), but everything blends into one breathtaking whole.

The museum on the lower level offers a detailed timeline of the installation process. Exhibits show the difference between Byzantine and Italian mosaic styles and explain how the stunning gold glass was created. Also on display are artifacts from Pope John Paul II's visit in 1997 and the cathedral's first pipe organ, built by the Kilgen Organ Co. in 1915. A mortuary chapel contains the crypts of former members of the city's archdiocese.

Guided tours are available.

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