The Old Cathedral - Field Trip: St. Louis

Last Updated: Thursday, 13-Sep-2018 20:00:57 MDT
Field Trip to St. Louis


Basilica of Saint Louis, King - 2001
KKZ 2001

Visiting the Basilica of Saint Louis, King was one of the highlights of both trips. It is not only a beautiful church, but it is also intricately tied to the history of St. Louis. Of course, my own family ties to the Old Cathedral make me a little biased - Jeremiah and Rose Delworth, my great-grandparents, were married there in 1882, and in 1884 my grandmother, Mary Rose Delworth Keehne was baptized in the Cathedral's cast iron baptismal font.

Be sure to stop by the Old Cathedral web site, which is maintained by George Everding. The site provides some information about the parish's history, as well as current Mass schedules and events. Rev. Msgr. Bernard H. Sandheinrich is the Pastor and the small parish is comprised of a dedicated group of volunteers that help with the preservation of the beautiful church and grounds. Another good source of information is a booklet entitled, "The Story of the Old Cathedral". The 84 page book was written by Rev. E.H. Behrmann, M.A. in 1949. The booklet contains a variety of photographs, illustrations and interesting facts about the parish of St. Louis IX, King of France as well as the Old Cathedral. The cost for the booklet was $5.00 (1998) and copies were available in the back of the church.

Photographs of the Old Cathedral
The following views were taken during my 1998 and 2001 visits to St. Louis. Click on the thumbnail images to see the larger color versions.

Basilica of Saint Louis, King, 1998 - 40KB

Basilica of Saint Louis, the King   -   The Old Cathedral was the fourth church constructed to serve the Catholic parishioners of St. Louis, beginning with the first log house church built in 1770. The cathedral's cornerstone was laid on August 1, 1831 by Bishop Rosati and the church was dedicated on the 26th of October, 1834.

Exterior View with Gateway Arch, 1998 - 60KB

Basilica of Saint Louis, the King   -   The Old Cathedral relinquished its title as cathedral of the St. Louis diocese in 1914, the year that the new Cathedral on Lindell and Newstead Avenues was dedicated. However, the original parish has continued to be active in the years since.

According to "The Story of the Old Cathedral", the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial project, which began in 1939, razed all the buildings within the area from Third Street to the river, and between the Eads Bridge and Poplar Street, except for the Old Cathedral. The church now sits in a beautiful park setting at the foot of the Gateway arch.

Sanctuary, 1998 - 78KB

View of the Sanctuary, 1998   -   An earlier view of the church sanctuary can be found on the back cover of "The Story of The Old Cathedral". It is interesting to compare the two photographs, seeing the similarities and the changes.

Baptismal Niche, 1998 - 45KB

Baptismal Niche   -   The font is located in a recessed area in the back of the church, enclosed by an iron railing. The painting above the baptismal font is a portrait of St. Louis IX, King of France, given to the diocese by the King of France in 1818. The painting was restored in 1949.

Marble Baptismal Font, 1998 - 42KB

Baptismal Font   -   I believe this marble baptismal font was installed in the Cathedral around 1886, during a remodeling that is referred to by Rev. E. H. Behrmann in his 1949 booklet "The Story of the Old Cathedral". In describing the renovations on page 62, he states:

"...and as a fitting climax new magnificent marble altars replaced the old." It would seem to make sense that the marble font would have been added at the same time. Prior to this I believe the baptistry font was cast iron.

Old Cathedral, 2001 - 64KB

This is a view that I photographed in June 2001. I particularly liked the way the inscription is highlighted in the sunlight:   "In Honorem S. Ludovici. Deo Uni et Trino Dicatum. A. MDCCCXXXIV."   According to "The Story of the Old Cathedral it translates:   "In honor of St. Louis. Dedicated to the One and Triune God. 1834."

I learned from Mr. Everding that the Hebrew inscription above the main facade is "Yahweh", which is the Hebrew word for God. Why the Hebrew inscription on a Catholic Cathedral? According to Mr. Everding: "One story is that, at the time the cathedral was built, it was the only church building in the entire area. Members of other faiths were allowed to have their services there. Another version is that, in those early frontier times, life was harsh and people depended on each other regardless of faith. Therefore the Bishop had the lettering put there as a gesture of friendship to the Jewish community."

Field Trip to St. Louis

Planning Ahead

Field Trip - 1998

Field Trip - 2001