Historical Religious Buildings Walking Tour, Saint Louis

Historical Religious Buildings Walking Tour (Self Guided), Saint Louis

Saint Louis, Missouri, is a perfect destination for those with a taste for great architecture, especially if it is associated with an important spiritual value. Indeed, this city features some of the most famous and interesting churches in the USA.

One such landmark is the Saint Mary of Victories Catholic Church. A stunning example of Mannerism architecture, it has been a spiritual hub for the local Catholic community since its construction in the mid-19th century.

The Old Cathedral, formerly known as the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, is another iconic religious building. It stands as a testament to the enduring presence of Catholicism in the city. Dating back to the 1830s, the Old Cathedral is a beautiful example of Greek Revival style and has witnessed centuries of worship and cultural change.

Centenary United Methodist Church, a Methodist congregation established in 1869, is a prominent Protestant landmark in Saint Louis. Its Gothic-inspired design and towering spire are visually striking, and it continues to serve as a center of worship and community engagement for the Methodist community.

Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal church with roots dating back to the mid-19th century, is another architectural gem. Its Gothic-style appearance and impressive interior make it a captivating place to explore, reflecting the city's diverse religious heritage.

The Shrine of Saint Joseph, with its Romanesque facade, is a testament to the enduring faith of the Catholic community in Saint Louis. This shrine has attracted pilgrims for decades, drawn by its rich history and spiritual significance.

Each of Saint Louis's diverse historical sites offers a glimpse into the city's rich spiritual past. If you're keen on architecture, we encourage you to spare some time to explore these landmarks more closely and thus enrich your understanding of Saint Louis's religious and cultural legacy.
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Historical Religious Buildings Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Historical Religious Buildings Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Saint Louis (See other walking tours in Saint Louis)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.4 Km or 2.7 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • St. Mary of Victories Catholic Church
  • Old Cathedral
  • Centenary United Methodist Church
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Shrine of St. Joseph
St. Mary of Victories Catholic Church

1) St. Mary of Victories Catholic Church

St. Mary of Victories Catholic Church is a historic Roman Catholic church situated in downtown St. Louis. Established in 1843, it is the second Catholic Church to be built in the city and has been designated as a National Register of Historic Places.

Initially, the church was built to serve the spiritual needs of about 500 German immigrant families who had settled in the "Chouteau's Landing" District, a commercial and residential neighborhood in pre-Civil War era St. Louis. The church played a vital role in providing the German immigrants with a sense of community and identity.

In the 1950s, many of the original families had moved out of the city, and the church saw an influx of refugees from Hungary after World War II and the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. This led to the church being unofficially referred to as the "Hungarian Church" and provided new life to the parish.

The church's architecture is of great significance, designed by George I. Barnett and Franz Saler, two renowned architects, in the early 16th-century Mannerist style. The nave is rectangular and forms a cross with the transept, with the sanctuary at its head. The choir loft is located on the second tier of the two-tier balcony at the rear of the church. The church's ornate wooden-carved organ case and stenciled display pipes are among the oldest in St. Louis.

The interior of St. Mary of Victories is equally remarkable, being the first interior in a St. Louis church whose design was based on liturgical studies. The interior was developed and constructed by Max Schneiderhahn, the first professional church artist in the city. As a German immigrant, Schneiderhahn studied at a German university and two monasteries, bringing the craftsmanship tradition of liturgical art to the St. Louis area. Schneiderhahn conceived and executed the altars, statuary, steepled baptismal font, communion rail, carvings, and frescoes, along with painting the Stations of the Cross.
Old Cathedral

2) Old Cathedral

The Basilica of Saint Louis, formerly the Cathedral of Saint Louis, is named for King Louis IX of France, who happens to be the namesake for the city itself. Also known colloquially as the Old Cathedral, this was the first cathedral west of the Mississippi River, built in 1834.

Surrounded by the Gateway Arch grounds, although technically it is not part of the Gateway Arch National Park, the church escaped demolition, luckily, for its historical significance, whereas other neighboring buildings were destroyed to make way for the Arch.

To recognize its importance, in 1961 Pope John XXIII designated it a basilica (a designation given to a church building distinguished for ceremonial purposes from other churches).

Built in Greek Revival style, the temple 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 here in the latter half of the 20th century.

Engraved in gold over the entrance are the Latin words that read "In honor of St. Louis. Dedicated to the one and triune God. A.D. 1834". Hebrew letters, intended to spell out the Tetragrammaton, are also inscribed in Hebrew above the engraving on the main entrance. An urban legend of unknown origin claims that "the letter Heth was substituted for the letter He, so the inscription merely reads "yachuch", which has no meaning in Hebrew". However, anybody who knows how similar these two letters are, but also the difference between them, can attest that the letters He in the inscription are indeed letters He.

In the basement of the church are a number of artifacts associated with the history of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Louis, including a bell donated by the governor of the territory of Louisiana in the early 19th century.

Why You Should Visit:
You would be hard-pressed to see more exquisite mosaics on the U.S. soil. Every inch of the wall, ceiling, and floor here is an amazing thing to look at.
Centenary United Methodist Church

3) Centenary United Methodist Church

The Centenary Methodist Episcopal Church is a magnificent example of Gothic Revival architecture located in the city of Saint Louis. The church was built in 1869, making it over 150 years old. It has a rich history and has been recognized for its architectural significance, earning a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

The church is made up of a two-story limestone building connected to a three-story office/service building. The design of the church was the work of renowned Baltimore architect Thomas Dixon. Local architect Jerome B. Legg supervised its construction. The church features many elements of Gothic Revival style, such as its pointed arches, stained glass windows, and ornate carvings.

In 1924, a three-story addition was built to the west of the original building. St. Louis architects Mauran, Russell & Crowell designed this addition, which was made of brick and stone. The addition complements the original building and is also built in the Gothic Revival style.
Christ Church Cathedral

4) Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is an Episcopal cathedral that serves as the central church for the Diocese of Missouri. Built between 1859 and 1867, the cathedral was designed by Leopold Eidlitz, a prominent mid-19th-century American architect, and is one of the few surviving examples of his work. The Gothic Revival style of the structure reflects the city's sense of its importance as the United States expanded westward.

The cathedral's architecture is notable for its expression of early Christian practices and styles, which was influenced by the Oxford Movement originating in England. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994 for its architectural significance. The cathedral is located in downtown Saint Louis, at the southeast corner of Thirteenth and Locust Streets.

The church is made primarily of Illinois sandstone, and its roof is made of purple and green slate. The cruciform structure features a tower projecting from the northern facade at the northwest corner, which houses a baptistry with a font made of Italian marble. In addition to the main body of the church, a smaller sandstone chapel was added in 1893-1895.

From 1910 to 1912, a tower and porch made of Indiana limestone were added to the cathedral, and a chime of three steel bells was dedicated in 1912. The bells were cast by the Bochumer Verein Foundry in 1904, with the bourdon bell weighing 5,732 pounds, making it the largest bell in Missouri.
Shrine of St. Joseph

5) Shrine of St. Joseph

The Shrine of St. Joseph in St. Louis is a historic Catholic church that began in 1843 when the Jesuits founded the parish to serve the local community of German immigrants. The church has a rich history and is the site of the only authenticated miracle in the Midwestern United States.

Mrs. Ann Biddle, a generous and wealthy widow, donated the land for the church, and the cornerstone for the new church was blessed by Bishop Kenrick on April 14, 1844. The church building, a modest structure that faced west towards 11th Street, was completed in 1846 and dedicated on the first Sunday in August of that year, with Father James Van de Velde officiating.

The St. Joseph parish was a very active community and, in 1862, a large parish school was built nearby to care for the many children of the area. The School Sisters of Notre Dame staffed the school, providing a quality education for the children of the parish.

Today, the Shrine of St. Joseph remains an important religious and cultural center in St. Louis. Although it is not a parish in the ordinary sense, the Friends of the Shrine of St. Joseph, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, operate and maintain the church. Masses are celebrated each Sunday and on First Fridays of each month, offering a spiritual refuge to those seeking solace and inspiration.

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