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Arrived a little late for the tour, the group is in the middle of the picture.
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
Closest available address
4431 Lindell Boulevard St. Louis, MO 63108
Cathedral is open 7:00am–5:00pm. Guided tours offered weekdays 10:00am–4:00pm.
Best time to visit
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is a Roman Catholic Church built in 1914 and best known for an incredible array of mosaic art throughout the sanctuary. The mosaic design is quasi Byzantine in style and includes classic images from the Bible, various saints and holy figures over the years and also more contemporary scenes from American history. The expansive grandiose hall can accommodate around 5,000 people. In addition to the main church, there are is a small museum with photos and a history of the building and mosaic installation in the basement. There is a small gift shop as well. Parking was free, and free tours are generally offered each hour during the week.
While planning for the new cathedral began in the late 1800s, construction did not actually begin till 1907 and was completed in 1914. This is not to say that the mosaic installation was finished in 1914; those elements took another 75 years to finish. Consider that there are over 80,000 square feet of mosaic designs and which reflect the work of 20 artists. The mosaics in the vestibule and central church area were designed by Paul and Arno Heuduck. There were also contributions from the Tiffany Company. Some red-tinted Tiffany glass in a high window behind the altar is particularly beautiful.
Arriving a few hours after a tour had started seemed like another instance of bad trip planning and poor timing but turned out not to be a big deal when the same docent conducted the same tour an hour later. Taking the fee tour is definitely the way to go here relative to seeing the church on your own. The tour guided provided useful insights about the designs and layout and pointed out notable features which otherwise would have been missed or overlooked. Also, being able to ask questions was a plus. If time is limited, you can skip the building exterior and grounds. While the exterior is not unimpressive, the real action at this cathedral is the interior and especially the ceiling artwork. As for the museum, it was small and can be seen in a few minutes. The most interesting aspect was signage and photos related to the mosaics – how they were designed and installed. Normally a quiet reverential site like this would not be a great choice for kids, but given its majesty, even children will be somewhat transfixed. It’s hard not to be. Entering this eloquent place with its hushed tones, lofty arches and domes, and exquisite craftsmanship can transform your thoughts and considerations from the commonplace to the ethereal. When in St. Louis, this is one place to make a point of visiting; just be sure to time your visit in concert with the tour schedule.
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