Basilica of St. Louis, King of France

Basilica of St. Louis, King of France
Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France
Basic information
Location United States 209 Walnut Street, St. Louis, Missouri
Geographic coordinates 38°37′27″N 90°11′14″W / 38.624121°N 90.187229°W / 38.624121; -90.187229Coordinates: 38°37′27″N 90°11′14″W / 38.624121°N 90.187229°W / 38.624121; -90.187229
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Website Basilica of St. Louis, King
Architectural description
Architect(s) Joseph Laveille and George Morton
Architectural style Greek Revival
Direction of façade South by west
Groundbreaking 1770 (first church)
1831 (current church)
Completed 1834
Length 134 feet (41 m)
Width 84 feet (26 m)
Height (max) 95 feet (29 m)
Materials Limestone
St. Louis Landmark

The Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, formerly the Cathedral of Saint Louis, and colloquially the Old Cathedral, was the first cathedral west of the Mississippi River and until 1845 the only parish church in the city of St. Louis, Missouri.[1] It is one of two Catholic basilicas in St. Louis, and it is named for King Louis IX of France, also the namesake for the city of St. Louis.[2]

It is located near the historic riverfront of St. Louis, surrounded by but not a part of the Gateway Arch grounds. Because of the historical significance of the church, it was left intact while all neighboring buildings were demolished to make way for the Gateway Arch. The basilica currently serves as a personal parish church rather than a territorial parish church, and therefore ranks 177th of 196 churches in number of Catholics per church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.[3] However, because of its historical significance, the basilica remains a popular church for marriage ceremonies in the archdiocese (ranking second of 196 churches) and a popular tourist destination.[3]



The first Catholic church in St. Louis, built in 1770, and replaced by the current structure

Previous structures

When Pierre Laclède and Auguste Chouteau established the city of St. Louis, they dedicated a plot of land west of Laclède's home for the purposes of the Catholic Church. The earliest Catholic records suggest that a tent was used by an itinerant priest in 1766, but by 1770, a small log house was built on the site.[4] This building, consecrated by the Reverend Pierre Gibault, an itinerant priest, on June 24, 1770, was expanded in 1776 to include a log church.[4][5] In spite of a more substantial structure, no priest permanently resided in the village of St. Louis until 1811.[6]

These buildings began to be replaced in 1818 with a brick structure, on the orders of the Bishop Louis William Valentine Dubourg.[7] The brick structure was designed by Gabriel Paul, and it was during Dubourg's tenure as bishop that many artifacts, paintings, and an organ were donated to the church.[8] While the brick church was under construction, a cemetery was established near the building in which many of the founders of St. Louis were interred.[8] Most of the bodies were reinterred during the 1840s and 1850s to Bellefontaine Cemetery, after the construction of the current church. Additionally, Dubourg was influential in the establishment of St. Louis College (later St. Louis University) in a two-story brick building adjacent to the new church in 1818.[9] However, construction on the brick church was not complete until 1821.[10]


In 1826, growth prompted the establishment of the Diocese of St. Louis. Population growth also prompted the first bishop of the St. Louis diocese, Joseph Rosati, to begin construction on a new cathedral, now the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France. The cornerstone of the church was laid by Rosati during a ceremony on August 1, 1831.[11] The church was designed and built by the architectural firm of Laveille and Morton, among the first architectural firms west of the Mississippi River above New Orleans.[12] Construction was complete by late 1834, and on October 26, 1834, the cathedral was consecrated at a ceremony involving the local militia and parishioners.[10]

After the elevation of the Diocese of St. Louis to archdiocese status in 1847, the cathedral became home to an early chapter of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity for the indigent. Both Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick and St. Louis Mayor Bryan Mullanphy were counted among the founders of the chapter, initially dedicated to assisting immigrants but later expanding to all St. Louis residents.[13] The tradition of care for the poor and needy was carried on in the early 20th century after the appointment of the Reverend John Tannrath to head the church on September 5, 1915.[14] Tannrath not only refurbished the rectory and church, but also reestablished a parish school for local immigrant children and cared for disabled children and adults.[15]

Recent history

Again due to the growth of the city, a larger church was consecrated in 1914 farther west of the current church, in the city's Central West End neighborhood. This larger church, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, continues to serve as the seat of the archbishop of St. Louis. However, to recognize the original cathedral's significance, on January 27, 1961 Pope John XXIII designated it a basilica, giving it the present name, the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France.[16] Shortly after, in 1963, the most recent renovation to the church occurred under the prominent St. Louis architectural firm, Murphy and Mackey.[17]

The current parish serves the needs of local parishioners, described as "few in number but strong in loyalty," along with working people and tourists.[18] However, the church often is used for weddings (the parish recommends booking dates at least a year in advance), behind only St. Francis Xavier College Church at St. Louis University in number of Catholic marriages in the archdiocese.[3][18]

The main altar in marble with a copy of Diego Velazquez's The Crucifixion

Design and artifacts

Built in Greek Revival style, the church is noted for its marble altars, a painting of Saint Louis venerating the Crown of Thorns given by Louis XVIII, King of France and Navarre, and an accurate copy of the painting of the Crucifixion by Diego Velázquez installed in the church in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Engraved in gold over the entrance to the church are the words "In honorem s. Ludovici. Deo uni et trino dicatum. A. MDCCCXXXIV," which translates as "In honor of St. Louis. Dedicated to the one and triune God. A.D. 1834.".[19] The word "Yahweh" also is inscribed in Hebrew above the engraving on the main entrance.

The church basement has a number of artifacts associated with the history of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Louis, including a bell given to the church by the governor of the territory of Louisiana during the early 19th century.[20] Bishop Joseph Rosati, who ordered the construction of the church, is interred in a vault underneath the sanctuary.


  1. ^ Shea, p. 687
  2. ^ Conard, p. 528
  3. ^ a b c "Statistics of the Archdiocese of St. Louis". Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  4. ^ a b Conard, p. 529
  5. ^ Violette, p. 92
  6. ^ Conard, p. 530
  7. ^ Violette, p. 91-2
  8. ^ a b Reavis, p. 150
  9. ^ Conard, p. 532
  10. ^ a b Conard, p. 533
  11. ^ Reavis, p. 157
  12. ^ Stevens, p. 530
  13. ^ Conard, p. 535
  14. ^ Stevens, p. 312-3
  15. ^ Stevens, p. 313
  16. ^ Giga-Catholic Information, "Basilicas in the United States"
  17. ^ McCue, p. 34
  18. ^ a b "Basilica of St. Louis, King of France Web Site". Retrieved 2010-02-20. 
  19. ^ The Old Cathedral - Field Trip: St. Louis
  20. ^ Massey, p. 105


  • Conard, Howard Louis (1901). Encyclopedia of the History of Missouri. New York: Southern History Co.. 
  • Massey, Dawne (2007). Insiders' Guide to St. Louis (3rd ed.). Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press. 
  • McCue, George (1989). A Guide to the Architecture of St. Louis. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. 
  • Reavis, L.U. (1871). Saint Louis: The Future Great City of the World. St. Louis: Missouri Democrat Print. 
  • Shea, John Gilmary (1890). History of the Catholic Church in the United States. III. New York: J.G. Shea. 
  • Stevens, Walter Barlow (1921). Centennial History of Missouri. IV. St. Louis: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co.. 
  • Violette, Eugene Morrow (1918). A History of Missouri. Boston: D.C. Heath and Co.. 
  • Faherty, William Barnaby; Abeln, Mark Scott (2009). Catholic St. Louis: A Pictorial History. St. Louis, Mo: Reedy Press. pp. 176. ISBN 1-933370-83-1. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Louis IX of France — Infobox French Royalty|monarch name=Louis IX title=King of France caption=Representation of Saint Louis considered to be true to life Early 14th century statue from the church of Mainneville, Eure, France reign=8 November 1226 – 25 August 1270… …   Wikipedia

  • Louis XIV of France — Louis XIV and Louis Quatorze redirect here. For other uses, see Louis XIV (disambiguation) and Louis Quatorze (disambiguation). Sun King and Le Roi Soleil redirect here. For the Beatles song, see Sun King (song). For the French musical, see Le… …   Wikipedia

  • Louis XVI of France — Louis XVI Louis XVI by Antoine François Callet King of France and Navarre Reign …   Wikipedia

  • Louis IV of France — Louis IV (10 September 920 – 30 September 954), called d Outremer or Transmarinus (both meaning from overseas ), reigned as king of France from 936 to 954. He was a member of the Carolingian dynasty, the son of Charles III and Eadgifu of England …   Wikipedia

  • Louis XVII of France — Infobox French Royalty|monarch name = Louis XVII title =King of France and Navarre caption =Louis in 1792, portrait by Alexander Kucharsky reign =de jure 21 January, 1793 – 8 June, 1795 full name =Louis Charles titles = HMCM The King HRH The… …   Wikipedia

  • Louis XV of France — Infobox French Royalty|monarch name=Louis XV title=King of France and Navarre caption=Louis XV by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1730) reign=1 September 1715 ndash; 10 May 1774 coronation=25 October 1722, Reims titles= HM The King HRH The Dauphin of Viennois… …   Wikipedia

  • Louis XVIII of France — Infobox French Royalty|monarch name=Louis XVIII title=King of France and Navarre caption= reign= De jure 8 June 1795 – 16 September 1824 De facto 6 April 1814 – 20 March 1815; 8 July 1815 – 16 September 1824 coronation= full name=Louis Stanislas… …   Wikipedia

  • Louis VII of France — Infobox French Royalty|monarch name=Louis VII the Young title=King of the Franks; Duke of Aquitaine caption= Louis VII the Young of France reign=25 October 1131 – 1 August 1137 1 August 1137 – 18 September 1180 reign type=Junior king Senior king… …   Wikipedia

  • Louis XI of France — Infobox French Royalty|monarch name=Louis XI the Prudent title=King of France caption= reign=22 July 1461 − 30 August 1483 coronation=15 August 1461, Reims othertitles= The King of France The Dauphin of Viennois full name= predecessor=Charles VII …   Wikipedia

  • Louis XII of France — Infobox French Royalty|monarch name=Louis XII title=King of France and Naples; Duke of Brittany; Count of Provence caption= reign=7 April 1498 – 1 January 1515 coronation=27 May 1498, Reims titles=The King of France The King of Naples The Duke of …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.