Religious Architecture

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.

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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.

 

 

Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Louis

Every time I return to St. Louis, I find new gems and treasures that continue to shine in this once grand, older Midwest City. In January, I stumbled very accidentally on Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, just south of Lafayette Square. The more than century old church continues to be a part of the community, inviting residents to Friday fish fries and events like Serbfest. Other Midwest cities, such as Detroit and Cleveland, also have churches and communities halls that highlight the history of ethnic settlement in the now decaying industrial cities. I recommend a quick visit if you are in St. Louis. It is a short walk or drive from Lafayette Park.

A few more churches, it is Sunday afterall

While exploring a part of Northeast Portland, i spotted two churches that needed some photographic attention. The light was just setting as I pulled up to St. Stephen’s Catholic Church on a cold day last weekend, and then minutes later, the sun dipped, and the entire look and feel of the church changed.

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. Patrick Catholic Church, Portland

It is not a happy day given the elections that saw virtually unchecked amounts of unregulated and mostly corporate cash sway electoral outcomes in my country. So, I have decided to publish some peaceful pictures of a peaceful place, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, in the now up-and-coming area north of Chinatown, practically underneath Interstate 405. I have seen this church for decades and was amazed it had not been torn down and converted to, oh, say a parking lot or bland building. Finally, I decided to pay a visit to the church two weeks ago. It looks like it barely clung to life as the interstate highway juggernaut ripped apart neighborhoods across the country, including in Portland–roads that i use daily, I might add. Dating from 1889, St. Patrick is the oldest Catholic church in Portland. (Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Temple Beth Israel of Portland

During my explorations of Portland, I am stumbling on many beautiful and sturdy houses of worship. Many of these date to the early and mid-1900s in this city. Temple Beth Israel, in the city’s northwest neighborhood, is among the most beautiful of all structures dedicated to the celebration of and expression of faith. The building, built in neo-Byzantine style (meaning duplicating the style of the great Hagia Sofia Church in Istanbul), is on the National Register of Historic Places. I used my GoPro to snap these first round of photos, and some members of the congregation graciously let me in to see the beautiful interior. I loved it. I hope to photograph as many of these stately buildings as I can on my free hours. (Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a seperate picture page.)