Basilica of St. LouisSt. Louis, Missouri is known as “The Gateway to the West.” It has centuries of history before Europeans explored the area. At one time, the city was called the Mound City because of the earthworks within its boundaries. Sadly, many of those Native American sites were demolished during the city’s development. One major center that remains is actually across the Mississippi River in Illinois. The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is a historic park that was the site of a pre-Columbian Native American City. It was one of the most influential settlements in the area. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, open to the public.

St. Louis was founded in 1763 by a French fur trader, Pierre Laclede. He and his partner were granted rights to set up a trading post, but they actually created a settlement. No country governed the city. The land was under Spanish authority, but did not assert any control over the town. In 1800, the town transferred to the French Republic. Three years later, it came to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. The Lewis and Clark expedition started at St. Louis to explore the new territory. Immigrants from Ireland and Germany settled in the area, giving it the religious heritage of today. Here are a few churches in the area that have a lot of historic significance.

Basilica of St. Louis, King of France

In its early days, the Old Cathedral, as it was known, was the only church of any denomination until 1816. The current structure was built between 1831 to 1834, and it was the first cathedral west of the Mississippi. Its style is Greek Revival. The church sits close to the Gateway Arch. In fact, it was left in tact during construction of the arch, while every other surrounding building was destroyed. It’s a beautiful place for a wedding and holds many precious pieces of art and history.

Shrine of St. Joseph

This shrine is the site of the “only authenticated miracle in the Midwest.” It began as a parish church, but today it has been renovated as a shrine. The Baroque architecture is the only example of the style in a church in the area. The altar is known as the Altar of Answered Prayers. Visitors write prayer requests on pieces of paper and tuck them into the crevices on the altar.

St. Francis de Sales Oratory

The current structure was completed in 1908. In the recent Art and Liturgy competition, the church was voted the most beautiful church in America. Its style is German gothic revival, and the design is based on a Berlin church. Currently, the church is undergoing renovations, but it’s still a beautiful and stunning church in the community.

Christ Church Cathedral

This Episcopal congregation was established four years before St. Louis was chartered as a city. The church built its current building between 1859 and 1867. Leopold Eidlitz was the architect. He designed the church in the 14th century English Gothic style. It’s known for its stained glass windows, the Aeolian-Skinner organ and the bells in the cathedral tower. The largest weighs 5,732 pounds. The crowning glory of the church is the reredos, a sculpted wall that rises 35-feet behind the altar. It features 52 religious scenes and biblical figures carved from stone excavated near Exeter, England.

Old St. Ferdinand's Shrine

This church was built in 1821 and is thought to be the oldest standing church in the territory of the Louisiana Purchase. Originally, the style was Federalist, but following 1880 renovations, the church looks more Gothic Revival. Mother Philippine Duchesne lived in the convent and taught Indian children here. The church is part of a complex of buildings that have historical significance in the area.

Category: Religion

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