Travel: Meeting the Father in a Special Place
Did you know the world's largest mosaic collection resides in a Cathedral Basilica? Perhaps that doesn't surprise you, but did you know it's not in Rome as you might suppose? It's nowhere in Europe. This distinction, found in a structure where one experiences stunning beauty, a community of saints and spiritual nourishment is in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Its quiet the sunny morning we arrive at the cathedral basilica. It's known as a cathedral because its the main church of a Catholic diocese, a place where the bishop or archbishop leads the congregation in teaching and prayer. Its called a basilica because its been recognized by the Pope for unusual qualities of history or beauty.
People stream out as one mass concludes. Soon another will begin. We stand outside the cathedral enthralled by the Romanesque exterior complete with arches, towers and a rose window. We long to step inside, but pause, not wanting to seem intrusive. An usher beckons us into the narthex. We enter through the fourteen foot high oak doors and marvel at the beauty. There's about 7,000 colors in the 41.5 million tesserae (small pieces of marble, glass or tile) that form the mosaics. The vine trailing across the ceiling and down the walls reminds us of Christ, the True Vine linking us to God, The Gardener.
In the narthex a mosaic portrays Paul's words from 2 Timothy 4: 7 expressing what every Christian hopes to accomplish. I have kept the faith. I have fought a good fight.
The narthex also depicts the life of King Louis IX of France,the cathedral's patron and namesake of the church and city.
Reverently we enter the cathedral proper, laid out in the form of a cross.
Christ's presence touches us in the sanctuary, bringing serenity. There's three domes in the cathedral ranging in height from ninety-six to 227 feet high. The sanctuary dome depicts the twelve apostles gathered around a cross.
From the front of the church looking back, light floods in the stained glass rose window and casts a soft glow over the sanctuary.
The mosaic in the west transept depicts a powerful Pentecost scene and the descent of the Holy Spirit. Notice the burning energy of the Holy Spirit surrounding Jesus' disciples with Mary at the center.
There's many mosaics not shown in this essay. One could wander through the cathedral and behold the vision of artistic wonder for hours, but alas we must leave this sacred place. As we step back out into the bright daylight we think of the dozens of artisans it took to complete the work throughout church.
The grounds are delightful as well. Notice the chimes hanging from the angel's wings. A gentle breeze gives them energy. The soft tinkling music brings peace to the heart and makes one long for peace in the world.
Before we leave I stand focused on the green-capped dome, the cross jutting into the sky and catching the sunlight. We didn't actually attend a mass, but we certainly met and worshiped the Father in this special place. I whisper a prayer of thanks.