Altar of the Virgin, Orleans Cathedral

Altar of the Virgin, Orleans Cathedral

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The Chartres Cathedral – A Sacred Site for Ancient Druids and Christians

The monumental Chartres Cathedral hides within its walls stories which connect the world of ancient Druids, the cult of the Divine Feminine and Christianity. It is located on a leyline linking Glastonbury, Stonehenge, and the Pyramids of Egypt. For centuries it has been one of the symbols of French Christianity.

However, before the times of Christianity the site where the cathedral is located, was a very important place in the pagan belief system. Its legendary roots come from the time when Druids, the Celtic priests of Britain and Gaul, held sacred rites there. The territory of Chartres was highly influenced by the Carnutes, a Gaulish people who had a vast Druid assembly. They were mentioned by Gaius Julius Caesar and Livy, who recorded the legendary traditions of the Carnutes.


St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest Roman Catholic Cathedral in continuous use in the United States. It is between the Cabildo, the building where the Louisiana Purchase was signed, and the Presbytere, which was formerly a courthouse. The Cathedral is a brick between posts construction, a type of construction used in New Orleans until the mid-19th century. There are three spires, a central spire flanked by two smaller ones. A bell tower with a clock was added to the church in 1819. The clock and its bell were obtained by a New Orleans clockmaker and brought from Paris. The bell stills chimes the hour.

The Notre-Dame Cathedral Was Nearly Destroyed By French Revolutionary Mobs

It’s one of France’s most powerful religious, architectural and cultural symbols𠅊nd images of Notre-Dame de Paris inਏlames਎voke questions about how the city, and the cathedral, will move forward. But the fire isn’t the first time the cathedral has faced destruction. 

During the French Revolution in the 1790s, angry mobs and revolutionaries looted the medieval Gothic church𠅊nd even declared that it wasn’t a church at all𠅍uring a bloody push to remove France’s close ties to the Catholic church. More than two dozen statues affixed to the church facade were publicly decapitated the same year as Marie Antoinette. 

Before a furious crowd stormed the Bastille in Paris in 1789, the Church wielded extraordinary power in France. The vast majority of French people were Catholic, Catholicism was the state religion, and the Church owned vast swaths of property and collected heavy tithes from most people’s incomes without paying taxes of its own. But a growing number of French people had tired of the Church’s almost inconceivable power.

As the monarchy toppled, then fell, a small group of radical revolutionaries who had been influenced by Enlightenment-era philosophies of freedom of religion and a reason-based society saw their chance to strip the Church of much of its authority. They embarked on a dechristianization campaign, confiscating Church property, trying to get all clergy to swear their loyalty to the new state, and removing the Church’s control over the birth, death and administrative records it had held for so long.

The Revolution gained steam, and so did its attempts to strip the Catholic Church of its authority over French life. Parisians massacred and jailed priests during the September Massacres of 1792, and clergy were put on trial during the Reign of Terror. In 1793, the new government announced that public worship was illegal. In response, people rushed into churches, stripping them of religious symbolism.

Pieces of the statues of the kings of Judah which adorned the facade of Notre Dame, that had been missing since the French Revolution, shown at a museum in 1977.

Manuel Litran/Paris Match/Getty Images

Notre-Dame de Paris had long been a symbol of the monarchy, too𠅊 place where state holidays, and kings, were celebrated. Henry VI of England was crowned king of France there in 1431. But revolutionary Parisians had had enough of its royal resonance. The cathedral’s west facade featured 28 statues that portrayed the biblical Kings of Judah. In fall 1793, the new government ordered workers to remove them. They didn’t portray French kings, but no matter: The 500-year-old statues combined monarchy and religion, and they were brought to the cathedral’s square and decapitated. Twenty-one of the heads were only recovered in 1977, when workers found them behind a wall in an old Parisian mansion.

That wasn’t the end of the cathedral’s revolutionary role. In November 1793, the cathedral became the site of the Festival of Reason, a revolutionary and anti-religious festival that both mocked Catholicism and suggested that French people should worship Enlightenment principles instead. After the cathedral was plundered, it became the stage for a packed public event in which a seductively dressed actress portraying the Goddess of Reason was worshiped atop a mountain. Enlightenment philosophers’ busts and statues of the Liberty replaced religious statues, and seductively dressed women danced and sang songs extolling the revolution. The centuries-old cathedral was renamed the Temple of Reason. Almost everything inside was looted aside from its bells.

Interesting Facts About 7 Prominent U.S. Cathedrals and Churches

A look at notable churches in Mobile, New Orleans, Honolulu, San Francisco, Raleigh, Buffalo and Washington, D.C.

The St. Louis Cathedral of New Orleans (photo: Thebocfc/Pixabay/CC0)

Pope St. Pius X (1835-1914) was among the first to donate to the construction fund for the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Bishop Thomas Shahan (1857-1932), rector of The Catholic University of America, personally spoke with the supreme pontiff in 1913 about his desire to see such a shrine established as “a monument of artistic truth and sincerity … a mirror of all the beauties of our venerable and holy religion.” Pope Pius was pleased with the idea, and made a personal contribution of $400 ($10,360 in 2020).

The shrine’s cornerstone was laid in 1920, and the first Mass held on Easter Sunday 1924. It has both an upper and lower level. Its lower crypt level, which today contains 80 chapels and oratories, was completed in 1931. The shrine’s central Trinity Dome, a 20,000 square foot area over the center of the church bearing an image of the Blessed Trinity and Immaculate Conception, was completed in 2017, marking the end of major construction on the shrine.

The shrine is dedicated to the patroness of the United States, the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, and is sometimes called Mary’s Shrine. Its chapels and oratories which have been added through the years are dedicated by various religious communities and ethnic groups. Since its founding, the shrine was envisioned as a gift from all American Catholics to represent the devotion to Mary by many kinds of peoples, cultures, traditions and ethnic backgrounds.

The shrine is the largest Catholic Church in North America, and one of the 10 largest in the world. It is 25% longer than St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, and has a seating capacity in the upper church of 3,500 and a total capacity in the upper church of 6,000.

There are 2,004 depictions of angels throughout Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica in Buffalo, New York. Its founder, Venerable Nelson Baker (1842-1936) had it designed that way, said Msgr. David LiPuma, pastor, because, “It raises you up spiritually, as if you’re looking up into heaven.”

The shrine is the nation’s second basilica, designated one by Pope Pius XI in 1926, and draws 40,000 visitors annually. It got its start in 1916, when the previous church at the site, St. Patrick’s Parish, was severely damaged by fire. Father Baker, age 74 at the time, began repairs, but one day announced at a parish meeting his vision of building a shrine to rival the great cathedrals of Europe. In 1921, Father celebrated his last Mass at St. Patrick’s the parish made way for the construction of a shrine which would cost a staggering $4 million (in 1920s dollars). Father Baker was an able fundraiser, and by the time of its completion in 1925, had completely paid for the entire edifice.

The shrine has a marble exterior — 46 types and colors of marble are used throughout — with twin towers and a huge copper dome measuring 165 feet high and 80 feet in diameters. Around the dome are four, 18-foot copper angels blowing trumpets. Other key external features include a 12-foot statue of Our Lady of Victory at the main entrance. The building has 134 stained glass windows, and an interior with many beautiful works of art and magnificent architecture.

In 2021, the shrine will celebrate the 100th anniversary of its groundbreaking and the laying of the cornerstone. Father Baker’s cause for canonization was accepted by Rome in 1988, and he was named Venerable in 2011.

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, North Carolina’s new cathedral which opened in 2017, was built on a site that was once an orphanage, purchased by Servant of God and the diocese’s most famous evangelist, Father Thomas Price (1860-1919). Father Price is an important figure in the diocese’s history the diocesan phase for his cause for beatification and canonization began in 2012. Father was a zealous priest who traveled about North Carolina in horse and buggy in an effort to make “every Tar Heel a Catholic.” He also founded the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, which became the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

The cathedral is cruciform style. Elements of the interior include the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, set off to the left of the altar (when facing the altar), with the ambo on the right. Prominently carved into the altar is the Christogram IHS, Greek lettering which is an abbreviation for the name of Jesus, which, according to designer James O’Brien, is “recognition of the cathedral’s dedication to the Holy Name of Jesus.”

Twenty-four columns surround the tabernacle area representing the 12 elders and 12 Apostles dressed in white with golden crowns (from Revelation) the seven decorative lighting fixtures between the columns represent the seven burning torches. The dome above the sanctuary is among the cathedral’s most significant features along with the baldacchino (canopy over the altar) on which has been painted the star configuration which would have been in the sky Easter Sunday morning 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem, when Christ rose from the dead.

Father Price headed overseas as a missionary at age 58, never expecting to return home. He was the only priest available with experience the others with him were young and newly ordained. He was the only one who had been a pastor. When he arrived, he was unable to learn Chinese, but was beloved just the same. He died of appendicitis in Hong Kong in 1919.

Anti-Catholic revolutionaries tried multiple times to set off bombs to destroy Ss. Peter and Paul Church in the North Beach area of San Francisco one would-be bomber, in fact, was shot to death by police on the front steps of the church in 1927. Established in 1884, Ss. Peter and Paul is known for its majestic twin towers, beautiful architecture and art it has served as the backdrop for numerous Hollywood movies (including Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 classic The Ten Commandments, while the current church was still under construction) and is a favorite stop for tourists.

While Ss. Peter and Paul was originally a home to many Italian Catholics, in recent decades Chinese Catholics have become the dominant ethnic group.

Poverty and political turmoil in Italy brought waves of Italian immigrants to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. North Beach became San Francisco’s Little Italy, as large numbers of Italians came and put down roots, established businesses, built homes and raised families. In the early 20th century, as much as 80% of North Beach was of Italian heritage, and walking down the streets Italian could be heard spoken as often as English.

In 1897, San Francisco Archbishop Patrick Riordan turned over care of the parish to the Salesians of Don Bosco, a religious institute founded in Italy by St. John Bosco a few decades before. The church became known as “La cattedrale d’Italia ovest,” the Italian Cathedral of the West. The Salesians still serve the parish and many of its parishioners still celebrate its Italian heritage.

Baseball great Joe DiMaggio married his first wife (not Marilyn Monroe) and had his funeral in the church (he grew up in the neighborhood). It is located opposite Washington Square, and its loud bells can be heard ringing throughout the neighborhood. (An angry neighbor took the church to court in 2003 to curtail the bell ringing, but lost.) Little Italy is nearby, as is Chinatown.

St. Damien of Molokai (1840-89) was ordained a priest in downtown Honolulu’s Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in 1864. Damien went on to serve on the Big Island before volunteering to spend the last 16 years of his life caring for the isolated lepers of Molokai. He eventually contracted and died of the disease himself.

King Kamehameha III donated land for the cathedral, the first and most famous of Hawaii’s Catholic churches. It was dedicated in 1843. It is made of blocks of coral taken from local reefs highlights include its historic tower clock and pipe organ. Inside it houses a first-class relic of St. Damien of Molokai and the remains of St. Marianne Cope, who came to the islands to assist Damien. She cared for Damien until his death, and never contracted leprosy herself.

The Diocese of Honolulu is currently trying to raise $20 million to complete the renovation of the structure.

U.S. Admiral David Farragut (1801-70) ordered his ships to make a cannon salute as they sailed down the Mississippi River past iconic St. Louis Cathedral of New Orleans, and an errant cannonball struck and damaged one of the cathedral’s spires.

Elements of the current cathedral building date to 1793, the year New Orleans became a diocese, but much of what is seen today is due to an effort to expand the cathedral in 1850 when New Orleans became an archdiocese. The cathedral boasts many unique features, including its many colorful stained-glass windows, which depict the life of St. Louis, from birth to death. Louis is patron of the diocese and is a great Christian monarch.

Other highlights include the cathedra, or bishop’s chair, a symbol of the bishop’s apostolic authority over the archdiocese.

Among those honored with images at the Cathedral is Venerable Henriette DeLille (1812-62). This woman of mixed race founded the Sisters of the Holy Family, who ministered to the slaves and free people of color. A prayer room, named in her honor, can be found in the cathedral’s former baptistery. Should DeLille ever be canonized, it will be elevated to chapel status.

A central focus of the cathedral is its ornate high altar. In a painting above it, in French, are the words from Scripture: “This is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” said by the priest himself during Mass. To the altar’s right and left are Sts. Peter and Paul, the early pillars of the Church.

Flags line either side of the cathedral, and include those of neighboring dioceses under the purview of the archdiocese, as well as the many City governments that had at different times controlled the City.

Other famous cathedral visitors include the Presbyterian U.S. President Andrew Jackson, who was said to have returned to New Orleans and its cathedral two decades after his lopsided victory at the 1815 Battle of New Orleans, admitting that without divine intervention the victory would never have been his. In 1987, Pope St. John Paul II visited the cathedral and offered an outdoor Mass for 200,000.

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Mobile, Alabama has survived an 1865 explosion of a Union ammo dump 14 blocks away, a fire which destroyed the sanctuary area and one of its towers was even struck by a pilot in training during World War II.

The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Mobile, Alabama. It was first established as a parish in 1703, and relocated to its current site in 1711. Construction of the present-day church began in 1833 it as consecrated for public worship on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1850, with major work continuing on the structure in the following decades.

This beautiful cathedral is prominently located in downtown Mobile, opposite a park known as Cathedral Square (once owned by the archdiocese). It has large twin towers and a front façade which includes six large columns. Its large interior includes a traditional marble altar, white columns, high decorative ceilings, marble flooring which includes images of the coats of arms of past bishops, magnificent stained-glass windows with Marian images, a large organ and an underground chapel and crypt with the remains of previous bishops.

Despite the accidents it has endured, in recent years it has undergone extensive renovations and has a bright, clean interior.

Jim Graves Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.

The Ghent Altarpiece: Open

Ghent Altarpiece (open) by Jan van Eyck , 1432, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium, via Closer to Van Eyck

The opened Ghent Altarpiece is a wonder to behold. In a moment of ceremony and performance, the dulled, almost monochromatic color scheme of the exterior panels is banished in an explosion of color. When open, all the lower panels create a continuous landscape, where crowds of people travel from all areas of the earth to witness the Lamb of God upon the altar. There seems to be a stark contrast between the lower and upper registers of the altarpiece. See how the bottom half consists of vast swaths of countryside, distant cityscapes, and many tiny figures. In contrast, the upper register has fewer portraits, all are significantly larger, and very little background detail aside from ornate floor tiles.

Different as the two halves may be, the eye can still trace a vertical line from God the Father, enthroned in the upper center, down to the dove of the Holy Spirit, and then the Lamb of God (symbolizing Christ, the Son). The line continues, carrying the blood of the sacrificial Lamb to a fountain, where it trickles through a trench towards the bottom of the altarpiece. In doing so, Jan van Eyck creates a direct correlation between the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, as well as a link between the painted blood of the altarpiece with the actual blood present on the altar below it during Mass.

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb

Mystic Lamb detail in the Ghent Altarpiece (open) by Jan van Eyck, 1432, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium, via Closer to Van Eyck

The Ghent Altarpiece was made to be just that: to sit upon an altar and be ritually opened at Mass for the priest’s public consecration of the Eucharist . The Eucharist was at the very heart of fifteenth-century Christian doctrine, explaining why the multiple crowds gather around the miracle taking place. Catholic doctrine states that, during Mass, the consecrated bread and wine are transformed (or transubstantiated) into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Due to their heavy association with Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and thereby his complete redemption of humankind, the body and blood are supposed to possess redemptive qualities.

As such, Jan van Eyck has incorporated both subtle and explicit eucharistic iconography into its design. The lamb, positioned near a wooden cross, bleeds into a eucharistic chalice upon a cloth-adorned altar. Both the cloth and the chalice are contemporary items, common to the fifteenth century, and likely would have resembled the altar and accessories in the painting’s designated chapel.

Adam and Eve

Detail of Adam in the Ghent Altarpiece (open) by Jan van Eyck , 1432, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium, via Closer to Van Eyck

Jan van Eyck near-lifesize portraits of Adam and Eve serve to further themes of redemption alluded to in the panels below them. In this case, the two figures demonstrate that which needs redemption: sinful acts. In her hand, Eve holds the strange fruit she is about to eat alluding to her role in the Fall of Man . Above their heads are statuettes showing the murder of Abel his brother Cain – the first instance of murder in the Bible. Through their consumption of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve commit what is known as Original Sin . Christians believe that because of this one action, everyone was henceforth born with Original sin, and heaven was thereby inaccessible to all. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross redeems this sin, thus making it possible for someone to enter heaven and be, at last, reconciled with God.

Though steeped in Christian symbolism, Adam and Eve also demonstrate Jan van Eyck’s illusionary ability, and what you see here were the first-ever large-scale nude portraits in Northern Europe. Note Adam’s foot, mid-step: the illusion of reality is so strong that he appears about to step out from his painted world, into our own. Even in the sixteenth century, the portraits were considered remarkable – in 1565, Lucas de Heere asked: whoever saw a body painted to resemble real flesh so closely?

Scroll down for some of the most beautiful cathedrals around the world.

Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia

Saint Basils Cathedral in Moscow. (Photo: Stock Photos from MARINAD_37/Shutterstock)

Also called the Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, construction on the cathedral began in 1555 under the tsar Ivan the Terrible. Today, the building sits on the Red Square in Moscow. Since the early Bolshevik years, the space has not been used as a regular religious site it was lucky to escape the urban-planning whims of Stalin in the 1930s. Today, the colorful spires house a museum&mdashalthough occasional Russian Orthodox services are still sometimes held inside.

Notre Dame Cathedral de Reims in Reims, France

Notre Dame Cathedral of Reims, in Reims. (Photo: Johan Bakker via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

The Duomo di Milano in Milan, Italy

The Duomo di Milano, or the Milan Cathedral in Milan, Italy. Prepared for the coronation of Ferdinando I of Austria, by Alessandro Sanquirico, sometime before 1833. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasília, in Brasília, Brazil

Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasília, in Brasília, Brazil. (Photo: Albery Santini Júnior via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0])

Notre Dame de Paris, in Paris, France

Notre Dame de Paris, in Paris, France. (Photo:
GuidoR via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

Notre Dame has long haunted the work of artists and writers&mdashVictor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame has captivated generations, while Matisse and Hopper sat below its gargoyles to paint the facade.

Seville Cathedral, in Seville, Spain

View of vaulted ceilings in Seville Cathedral, in Seville, Spain. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 3.0])

St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England

St. Paul's Cathedral in London, the view over the Thames River, by il Canaletto, 1746-7. (Photo: Ablakok via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 4.0])

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City, Mexico

Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [Public domain])

In 2007, a box hidden in 1742 was discovered in one of the towers. The box was found inside a hollow stone ball and contained religious talismans to protect the church. There are plans to place another time capsule to be left for future generations.

Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec in Quebec City, Canada

Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec in Quebec City, Canada. (Photo: Stock Photos from JAMES JIRAPHANUMES/Shutterstock)

The first cathedral built on the site was a 17th-century building that was later burnt during the Battle of Quebec during the 7 Years' War. The present structure dates to the late-18th century rebuilding efforts the facade is a 19th-century neo-classical addition. The church lies in Old Quebec City, the only present-day walled city in the Americas, and it has long been an important pilgrimage destination. Visitors can also hope to see a chalice given as a gift by Louis XIV of France.

Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire, England

View of the High Altar at Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire, England. (Photo: Diliff via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria

Cathedral Saint Alexander Nevsky in Sofia, Bulgaria. (Photo: Deensel via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0])

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. (Photo: Yearofthedragon via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, USA

Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, USA. (Photo: Stock Photos from ORHAN CAM/Shutterstock)

This modern cathedral was built in the early 20th century in neo-gothic style. The facade is reminiscent of Notre Dame de Paris with the dual towers. Under the Episcopal denomination, the church has hosted the funerals of four presidents and the late Senator John McCain, among other notable figures.

In 1968, Reverand Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his final Sunday sermon from the pulpit in World War II, monthly services were held as part of a spiritual effort to boost morale.

Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany

Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany. (Photo: Stock Photos from NICKOLAYV/Shutterstock)

This World Heritage Site was begun in 1248 but not completed until 1880, although the gothic style was used throughout. A Catholic church still in use, the structure suffered from Allied bombing in World War II. Its magnificent flying buttresses, dark carved stone exterior, and lavish treasury of gold and silver are major tourist draws. Visitors will find the golden Shrine of the Three Kings, one of the largest Christian reliquaries.

Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, Vatican City

Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, Vatican City. (Photo: Stock Photos from FELIKS/Shutterstock)

Christ called Saint Peter the rock upon which he would build his church as such, St. Peter's is considered by many as of the holiest sites in Christendom. The Tomb of St. Peter lies under the high altar, and a church has stood on the site since the Christian conversion of Rome. The current domed basilica dates to the 16th century. The interior includes furnishings by Bernini, while the building's dome was largely designed by Michelangelo in the last years of his life. The magnificent St. Peter's Square upon which the basilica sits was also designed by Bernini and fills to the brim with the faithful for enormous Papal audiences.

It should be noted that technically, St. Peter's is not a cathedral as it has no bishop.

Altar of the Virgin, Orleans Cathedral - History

NewOrleansChurches.Com ®
Photography by John and Kathleen DeMajo

Although Holy Rosary Parish officially began in 1907, the history of the parish began as early as the settlement of the Bayou St. John and City Part (Allard Plantation) area. The historic waterway, discovered by Iberville in 1699, served as a passage from the Gulf to Lake Pontchartrain. Soon the Spanish missionaries came to settle Louisiana. At the mouth of the Bayou, a resort called Spanish Fort was constructed. Along the upper side of the Bayou was the Allard Plantation which, in the mid-1800's became New Orleans City Park. On the opposite side, a number of fine homes were constructed as was the Fair Grounds. The present Holy Rosary property was originally part of a large tract of land that extended to Gentilly Boulevard. It was sold by Joseph Chalon and his wife, in 1871, to Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, the builder of St. Louis Cathedral, who constructed a home for himself. Almonaster sold the land to Louis Blanc in 1792 and in 1799, it was acquired by Don Nicolas Maria Vidal, lieutenant governor of the Louisiana Colony. The land finally was purchased by Evariste Blanc and it remained in the Blanc and Denegre family until 1905.

Many fine homes had been constructed in the area including the Spanish Custom House (later the residence of Dr. and Mrs.I. M. DeMatteo), The Judge Tissot home and the Cucullu home. In 1855, Esplanade Avenue was opened to the Bayou on land obtained from the Blanc family. In 1856, St. Louis Cemetery was established on the site of the Old Bayou Cemetery originally founded by the City in 1835. Soon after the Civil War, the Fair Grounds was established and the beautiful Gallier home became the Louisiana Jockey Club. A burial ground for Civil War soldiers was established by Governor Nicholls in 1883. In 1861, a horse-drawn car line was established with a car barn on the site of the playground next to the present Cabrini High School property.

As the area around the Fabourg St. John and the Grand Route St. John steadily developed, a call went out from residents for a parish church. The area originally fell into the distant St.Ann Parish but the distance was excessive for the residents to travel. Mrs. Fanny Labatut Blanc offered a piece of ground in 1855 for the erection of a parish church, along with 300,00 bricks. The act of donation was passed in 1855 before Notary Octave de Armas. A small cottage on the property became the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Father Maistre, the first pastor, deemed that the formation of the church was impractical and he went on to form St. Rose de Lima parish of which the parochial territory of Holy Rosary remained part until 1907.

In 1904, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, who would later become America's first canonized saint, trudged down the Esplanade looking for the ideal piece of land to construct an orphanage. In 1906, with the help of Captain Salvator Pizzati, Mother Cabrini constructed the Sacred Heart Orphanage. This project escalated the founding of Holy Rosary Parish. Also, the Denegre family were pressing the Archbishop to fulfill the commitment and construct a church as agreed, or else the land should revert back to the family. In 1907, Archbishop Blenk took the long-awaited action and appointed Rev. William J. Vincent to build a new parish to be called Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. On December 25, 1907, the first mass was celebrated at midnight in the old home. According to newspaper accounts, Archbishop Blenk officiated at the mass. Mrs. Denegre did not live to see the final church building as she passed away on September 12, 1910 at the age of 93.

Although the first mass was celebrated in the home as Mrs. Denegre had wished, a small chapel was completed in January of 1908. As the new parish grew, a school was needed. While the chapel remained overloaded, especially during the period following the fire that destroyed St. Rose of Lima, other parish needs took precedence over the construction of a new church. It was not until 1924 that construction of the permanent church was begun. On Sunday, November 22, 1925, the new church was finally dedicated. Father Vincent died in November of 1934, having taken the parish from its humble beginnings to a fully developed congregation with a school, church, societies and a strong Parish spirit. It was found that Father Vincent had personally financed a modest part of the parish works.

Father Vincent was followed by Msgr. Francis Canon Racine, Bishop L. Abel Caillouet who contributed to the strong growth and parish spirit. Today, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish remains a strong bastion of faith in the Archdiocese.

References: Golden Jubilee publication by Roger Baudier, Sr. KSG, LLD. and various documents contained in the New Orleans Public Library.

St. Joseph&rsquos Day Traditions


St. Joseph altars, representing the Holy Trinity, are divided into three sections with a statue of St. Joseph at the head. The devout place candles, figurines, flowers, medals and other items around the alter creating a beautiful, lush and overflowing effect. Because the altars thank St. Joseph for relieving hunger, offerings of food are added to the cornucopia that anyone is welcome to feast on during the holiday.

Cookies, cakes and breads, often in the form of shell fish, are common decorations for altars. Fava beans, or &ldquolucky beans&rdquo are particularly associated with St. Joseph because they sustained the Sicilians throughout famine. Pick some up for good luck! As tradition has it, the altar is broken up on St. Joseph&rsquos Day with a ceremony of costumed children, pretending to look for shelter, finding sustenance at the altar. Food and donations are then distributed to the public with leftovers going to the poor.

St. Joseph&rsquos Day Parade

Hosted by the American Italian Marching club, one of the largest ethnic group organizations in the southeast, the annual St. Joseph&rsquos Day parade in the French Quarter is a local favorite. The evening begins with food, wine and Italian music followed by marchers dressed in black tuxedos proceeding to parade until dark. Receive silk flowers and fava beans or dance and sing the hours away with enthusiastic bystanders.

St. Joseph’s Sanctuary: Cathedral Has Beckoned the Faithful for More Than 100 Years

St. Joseph is honored in multiple ways in the edifice bearing his eponym.

St. Joseph is honored in multiple ways in the edifice bearing his eponym. (photo: Courtesy of the Cathedral of St. Joseph)

Thirty years after Pope Leo XIII established the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, its Cathedral of St. Joseph (online at was dedicated, in May 1919. The first Mass had been celebrated in the unfinished cathedral on Dec. 8, 1918, fittingly on the feast of St. Joseph’s spouse, Mary.

The stone edifice towers on a high hill not far from the city’s riverside, its twin spires reaching toward the clouds — and a landmark today for pilots approaching the area’s airport.

Emmanuel Masqueray, a French architect who designed several churches across the upper Midwest and was chief designer for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, used his talents for the cathedral’s design. But because he died midway through the construction — as did Sioux Falls’ bishop at the time, Thomas O’Gorman — a chief assistant completed the project.

To further complicate matters, the project also ran out of funds around this time. There were renovations over the decades, but between 2009 and 2011, under the leadership of architect Duncan Stroik, the church was fully restored.

“This was an amazing project,” Stroik tells the Register of the renovation. “It was a cathedral that had never been finished, so what we did was actually study the history of the cathedral and what it might have been had the architect and Bishop O’Gorman lived three to four years more. We called it a creative restoration. We put things in there [that were] never there, but [that] we believed appropriate for the [vision of the] architect and bishop and for the building.”

Under the Dome

Stepping inside the 225-foot-long interior, one immediately takes in the marble main altar, with its domed, circular baldacchino raised high by four green marble columns.

The restored Nativity scene fills the huge dome in the apse.

This combination of colorful bas relief and mural is original to the cathedral and restored to its pristine condition. Above the depiction of the Holy Family, and where sheep are shown resting peacefully before the manger, artwork of angels above unfurl a banner reading Adoremus Domini while the Holy Spirit is seen hovering over the scene. Around the Nativity’s circular frame, four squares capture the symbolic images of the Evangelists — an eagle for St. John, ox for St. Luke, lion for St. Mark, and man for St. Matthew. To either side of the apse the Magi are shown arriving, as shepherds adore the Christ Child in awe. Much is gilded in gold.

“Mary is lifting the swaddling clothes off Jesus to reveal him to those who come in and gaze up at that medallion,” explains Father James Morgan, the cathedral’s rector. “There is the Son of God, the Messiah prophesized to come from the beginning of time through the Scriptures. Then your eyes drop from that Nativity scene down to the crucifix and the reason why he came into the world: to defeat sin and death and bring salvation for us.”

Father Morgan draws attention to the flame appearing over Joseph’s shoulder and repeating similar image on the torches on the tops of the cornices of the cathedral’s columns. It represents the incorruptible divine nature of Jesus Christ. The theme throughout is the human and divine nature of Jesus.

The new reredos emphasizes those natures. Classical in style, it showcases a life-size Jesus on a metal cross. The corpus is bronze with gold patina, and the huge plaque behind is onyx. Below, a pair of angels in relief on the tabernacle door hold a huge chalice and Host with flames around symbolizing tongues of fire of the Holy Spirit. Symbolic pelicans are carved under the altar.

Towering Edifice

The towering main arch in the sanctuary proclaims Gloria in Excelsis Deo. To one side the new marble ambo is located where it was intended by the cathedral’s original design. Its round canopy seems to float over the pulpit. The new white marble Communion rail spans the full length of the sanctuary to the shrines of Mary and Joseph on either side.

Stroik says that, surprisingly, there was never an altar original to the cathedral, only the altar brought in from the old St. Michael Cathedral predating this one. “It never had an altar designed by Masqueray or O’Gorman.” The new altar reflects “what we think Masqueray would have done.” The new altar finally original to the cathedral reflects the overall design full of arches, circles and intertwining circles and includes a baldacchino.

“Masqueray loved baldacchinos,” Stroik says, explaining he came up with this one to have a dome over the altar on the baldacchino since Masqueray had designed a domed baldacchino for St. Paul Cathedral in Minneapolis, as well.

The cathedral’s lines are both classic and ornate, while symbols abound. At the Marian altar, the original combination of bas relief and mural presents Mary and Gabriel the Archangel. The Ark of the Covenant appears between them as the new Ark of the Covenant is Mary’s womb. Father Morgan points out “her posture is one of great humility. On the other shrine to St. Joseph, he “has the same humble posture as Mary’s humble posture.”

There, the original restored bas relief-mural presents the dying St. Joseph with Jesus and Mary. The circle behind Jesus represents the Eucharist. The new door on the St. Joseph tabernacle is based on Masqueray’s original drawings, while the tabernacle door at Mary’s shrine altar with crown and roses is his original.

Prayer at Work

Both transepts have rose windows above triple lancets. In one, St. Joseph holds a model of this cathedral in one hand and a lily (his traditional symbol of purity) in the other. The opposite Marian rose window portrays the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus. To either side of Joseph and Mary, two angels with censers (containing incense) venerate them. The angels-with-censers theme repeats in several places. In the nave before entering the sanctuary on both sides, “two angels are pictured holding censers ready to incense in worship the Host between them,” Father Morgan notes. Colorful rondelles of the apostles in very high bas relief decorate the space between the arches, with vines running back and forth from imagery of vases, which, as the pastor says, are “a sign of the Gospel where Jesus said, ‘I am the vine …’ Also, the plant represents life, and the Church is life-giving.”

Even in the bas relief carved over the cathedral’s main entry doors similar angels are depicted as worshipping Our Lord as King.

The rector draws attention to many unique decorative features, including pelicans — an ancient sign of the Eucharist because the pelican will feed its young if need be with its own flesh and blood — repeating on the tops of the columns in the nave and sanctuary.


Another unique feature are colorful rondelles of the apostles in very high bas relief between the arches. Ten are along the nave depictions of Peter and John are in the sanctuary. Every apostle is depicted as looking toward the altar. The arches under them are ornate in detail, and between the apostles’ images are similarly decorated depictions of huge vases. Father Morgan calls them another unique feature, as “flowing vines then come out and arch across the ceiling, the vines running back and forth from vase to vase. It’s a sign of the Gospel where Jesus said, ‘I am the vine …’ Also, the plant represents life, and the Church is life-giving.” In those plants’ images, which run across the ceiling, “there are pineapples. We see them throughout as a sign of welcome and hospitality.”

French stenciled stained-glass windows replaced the originals in 1947. Along the nave, the stained glass includes vast floral patterns that surround a trio of saints’ images in each — a tall central saint accompanied by two saints in smaller rondelles above and below. For example, one window honors St. Isaac Jogues, Teresa of Avila and Francis Xavier. In another, a smaller medallion honors Pope Pius XII, the reigning pope when the windows were installed.

The choir loft’s rose window presents Christ the King carrying a scepter. Christ is shown surrounded by stained glass rondelles presenting people of European, African, Asian and Native American descent in adoration. This cathedral, which also serves as a parish, includes the St. Josephine Bakita Community, comprised of many parishioners from East Africa.

Restoration and Renewal

The baptismal font is again in the narthex, where it was originally located. Father Morgan points out the floor is decorated with the coat of arms of Pope Benedict XVI, because he was reigning when the cathedral was restored, and Pope Benedict XV, the pontiff when the cathedral was built.

Back in the nave, below the saints’ windows run the Stations of the Cross, which date from the time of the windows. Framed by arches, the Stations are handcrafted plaster reliefs now restored to original condition. Father Morgan highlights their realistic and intricate detail, right down to the muscles of the Roman soldiers.

Intricate details abound. Even the twin spires have the distinctive Masqueray signature look as he designed the shingles to resemble heads of grains of wheat.

“This was farm country, growing wheat, oats, barley,” Father Morgan explains, “and he [Masqueray] wanted to tie in the prairie connection of the Mother Church to the rest of the diocese.”

Another singular and remarkable highlight of the cathedral is the Sacred Heart Chapel, used for daily Mass and for Eucharistic adoration. It has both a vaulted ceiling and baldacchino over the altar, conveying elements of both Eastern Catholic and Latin Catholic worship.

Father Morgan says a Russian iconographer was brought in to write icons of the evangelists, the three archangels and Mother and Child. In this section are Eastern Rite crosses and an Eastern Rite-style votive candle stand. The front and sanctuary are done in Latin church style, with a wall-to-wall mural that brings together images of Mary, Joseph, John and Peter on one side, along with imagery of saints who had a devotion to the Eucharist or Sacred Heart. Christ is, of course, presented in the center, depicted in his Second Coming.

Because the cathedral is built on one of the city’s highest hills and is a local, cultural and religious landmark, it is a beacon of faith rising high above the Big Sioux River, beckoning all to Ite ad Cathedrali Sancti Ioseph — Go to the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

Joseph Pronechen Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005 and before that a regular correspondent for the paper. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, Catholic Exchange, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in major newspapers. He is the author of Fruits of Fatima — Century of Signs and Wonders. He holds a graduate degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.

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