Religion

Churches made St. Louis great

Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

St. Louis is one of the greatest cities in the United States for exploring the magnificent architecture of American churches from all Christian denominations. The city’s strong Catholic roots, still powerfully expressed through the Archdiocese of St. Louis, are expressed in the great St. Louis Basilica, but also in other churches, cathedrals, basilicas, and worship halls around the city. Most are still functioning, but some have closed because of the city’s precipitous population loss from nearly 900,000 in 1950 to nearly 300,000 in the 2010 census.

Churches from the Catholic and Protestant strains of Christianity provide testimonials to the city’s confidence in itself, its industry, its people, its future, and its identity that the city may have been favored by their lord and protector. I challenge anyone to give me a greater constellation of churches in an urban area than St. Louis. I’m sure Detroit, Chicago, and maybe New York might offer a good fight.

Here is a sample of four churches I took during my last visit. One, St. Agnes Church, owned by the Archdiocese of St. Louis, closed in 1993. It fell victim to the city’s slow and painful decay.

Advertisements

A City of Catholic Saints and Churches

Scene above: The world-famous King St. Louis IX statue on Art Hill in Forest Park, Sts. Peter and Paul Church, St. Anthony of Padua Church. Click on each picture to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.

St. Louis’ namesake comes from French King Louis IX, one of France’s few pious rulers who ruled in the 13th century and died in 1270. The city’s European origins can be traced to French traders on the Mississippi River. One, Pierre LaClede, gave the trading post its name after the revered ruler 252 years ago. That name stuck, and the city of St. Louis was born (on ground inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans).

The city’s name also helped to attract many Catholic European immigrants, from Italians to Germans to Irish. Many of the city’s strongest and most powerful education and social institutions, from hospitals to orphanages to private schools to St. Louis University, were also founded by Catholics. The Archdiocese of St. Louis virtually runs the city’s homelessness programs and non-profit social service sector.

For a visitor to St. Louis, one of first things one sees are brilliant and beautiful church spires rising tall above old neighborhoods. These institutions still play a vital role in many depressed areas of the fading, formerly great industrial city. Every time I visit my family in neighboring University City, I always take a tour and rediscover this amazing legacy. I still am dazzled by the skill and confidence with which St. Louis’ earlier residents built their community purposefully, to live up to the city’s name.

 

 

Christmastime at Concordia Seminary

Concordia Seminary is one of the most beautiful academic campuses in the country, in my book. The seminary is affiliated with the more conservative branch of the Lutheran Church in the United Stated (Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod), but that is not why I have an affinity for this place.

I used to live very close to here, and I always pay a visit when I visit family in the St. Louis area, mainly because I find the campus to be so lovely. The seminary was built like many homes, churches, and public buildings in the St. Louis area, with a sense of permanence and with stones and slate roofs. If I were to pick any place to shoot a film that needed an “elite university look,” this would be the place.

All of these photographs were taken with my GoPro.

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Old Laurelhurst Church, Portland, Ore.

Today, I was exploring a few areas around the Hollywood and Laurelhurst neighborhoods. Laurelhurst is one of Portland’s very tony, planned upscale communities that dates from the early 1900s. Portland is full of these high-end places, along with areas that are extremely low-income. One of the landmarks in this posh hood is the Old Laurelhurst Church. It is non-denominational and available for rent for events like weddings. Standing out front I would have thought I was back in sunny San Diego today, except it was below freezing. This town is just full of interesting churches.  (Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

A potpourri of Portland places of worship

I took these photos in October and November 2014. I will eventually have photographed most of the unique houses of worship in Portland that I considered to be architecturally significant and uplifting to the eye, mind, and spirit. There is no particular order or deeper purpose. I really do like what the craftsman, architects, and builders did in this town in the 1900s. Nice work, everyone. (Click on each photograph to see larger pictures on separate picture pages.)

St. Mary’s Cathedral in Portland

Within about five blocks of each other, one can find three of the most exquisitely designed and built religious structures in Portland: the Catholic St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Temple Beth Israel, and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. St. Mary’s is designed in Romanesque Revival style, similar to churches I have seen in Italy, but also in the United States duplicating those in the Old World. The complex has a large courtyard and ancillary facilities attached. If you are in Northwest Portland, take a stroll to 17th and NW Davis, and you’ll find a beautiful complex taking over a city block.

I shot this photograph with a GoPro camera. To see a larger photograph, click on the picture to open a separate picture page.

Portland’s Holy Trinity Orthodox Church

Last weekend I did a photo tour of neighborhoods in Portland, with an eye for finding aesthetically interesting homes, buildings, and churches. I stumbled on Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, serving the Greek Orthodox community. I of course stopped immediately when I saw it and took a few portraits. During my visit, I met Sofia, a native of Athens, and we had a lively discussion of the Hagia Sofia chruch in Istanbul and life in America. It is very fun to get to know who lives in your community, and churches can be a great place to meet people on their “home turf.” (Click on the photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Visiting a Coptic monastery near Luxor, Egypt

During my two-and-a-half-week journey to Egypt ten years ago, I visited six Coptic monasteries. These are amazing places, beautifully preserved and vitally important to the Coptic minority in Egypt. During my visit, most were under armed guard by the state army, which I have read has melted away since the fall of Mubarak, and Egyptian forces have even participated in attacks on at least one of the most historic monasteries in Egypt near Cairo. You can read a little more about my visit to Egypt and the situation facing the Copts in an article I wrote in April 2013.