The Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, formerly the Cathedral of St. Louis, and colloquially referred to as the “Old Cathedral,” is the only example in America of a historic Catholic landmark positioned under a modern secular landmark.
The basilica—the oldest Catholic church and the oldest building in St. Louis—stands below the monumental Gateway Arch, a glittering symbol of the city’s history.
When it was consecrated in 1834, the Old Cathedral was surrounded by homes and businesses. That busy neighborhood has been replaced by the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a tribute to President Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France. (There is a new cathedral, too, outside downtown.)
There has been a Catholic church here since 1764, when St. Louis—then known as Laclede’s Village—was founded. The Old Cathedral has had a rich history. One of the first chapters of the St. Vincent de Paul Society was established here, and the son of Sacagawea, the guide of explorers Lewis and Clark, was baptized here.
After the famous expedition, three of William Clark’s children were baptized in the Old Cathedral.
Among the city’s art treasures are paintings that Bishop William DuBourg brought back from Europe in 1818. You can find them in the nearby museum.
The church was built in the elegant Greek Revival style, and that elegance has been recently restored, especially inside, following an ambitious restoration project.
Over the entrance to the cathedral is a Latin inscription that, translated, reads, “In honor of St. Louis. Dedicated to the One and Triune God. AD 1834.”
Above the inscription are the Hebrew characters for the holy name of God.
Adapted from 101 Places to Pray Before You Die by Thomas J. Craughwell (Franciscan Media) Click the image below for more.