Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beautiful St. Louis Cathedral

The St. Louis Cathedral is the heart of old New Orleans.

Past the line of mule-drawn tour carriages and beyond the statue of General Andrew Jackson on his bronze horse is the St. Louis Cathedral. On our first day in New Orleans, we headed to Jackson Square and the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France, the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States.

Of our seven trips to Jackson Square, the most memorable occurred about 12 years ago. It was Christmas Eve and we attended a performance by several local gospel choirs. The evening was both solemn and energizing--the performance of "Go Tell It on the Mountain" by an African-American choir was memorable.

Since 1727, New Orleanians have worshipped in churches on this site.

A fire in 1788, destroyed the Church of St. Louis, the priests' residence, and several other buildings. The second Church of St. Louis was completed in December, 1794. The central tower was constructed in the 1820s.

Major work (enlarging and restoring the cathedral) began in 1849. The contract specified that everything except the lateral walls and the lower portions of the existing towers on the front facade were to be demolished. During the reconstruction, it was determined that the sidewalls would have to be demolished, also. Then, during construction in 1850, the central tower collapsed.

As a consequence, very little of the Spanish Colonial structure survived. The present structure primarily dates to 1851.

Entering the Cathedral, we noticed people in prayer, a tour group, and several others taking photos or walking around the interior.

The view toward the altar shows the flags of the countries (on the right in the photo) that New Orleans has been under from its founding to the present. On the left in the photo are flags relating to the Cathedral, including the Papal flag and the Coat of Arms of the Basilica.

On the ceiling is the painting of Jesus telling Peter "Feed My Sheep."

The baroque altar centerpiece of 1852 (left) is flanked by statues of Saint Peter (left) and Saint Paul (right).

Above the altar is the large mural (left) of King Louis IX (1214-1297) announcing the seventh Crusade.

The three statues are Hope (left), Faith (center), and Charity (far right).

Along each side of the Cathedral are five windows depicting scenes from the life of Louis IX, sainted King of France. The window shown here shows King Louis IX ministering to lepers.

This photo shows the back of the nave. The 4,500-pipe organ, designed by Holtkamp Organ Company, was installed during the Cathedral's extensive renovation in 2004.

The high winds of Hurricane Katrina tore a hole in the roof, allowing water to enter the building and severely damage the organ. Shortly after the storm, the organ was sent back to Holtkamp to be rebuilt. In June 2008, the organ was reinstalled in the Cathedral.

A beautiful beginning to our stay in New Orleans.

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