Mosaic Mandalas of
St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis, Missouri
Part of the awesome ceiling of mosaic mandalas
in a chapel just off from the main Sanctuary.
Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri,
I was aware of the enormous Cathedral,
with its huge green dome, not far from the Chase
Hotel in the city's picturesque Central
West End. Not until the last few years, on visits to my parents,
did my eyes open to the utter magnificence of the glorious mosaic
interior of the structure.
I've read that the Catherdal contains
the largest mosaic surface of any building in the world. It took 80
years to complete! The story I heard is that when the church official
in charge of building the Cathedral was visiting Italy once, he happened
upon the mosaic works in Ravenna, and was so impressed that he told
the proprietor, "If you ever need a job, just come to St. Louis,
in the states." And that a few years later, the artist just
Frankly, the story is too beautiful
for me to want to risk checking out the facts. It's either a true
story or a local mythpowerful in either case.
My favorite place in the Cathedral
is called the Blessed
Virgin's Chapel. (I never knew what it was called till
a moment ago.) This particular room room, the Church website says,
"was created by Tiffany Company (italics mine) of New
York in the Italian style."
The ceiling of the chapel consists
of a number of large, mosaic mandalas,
each one amazingly intricate and totally different. When I'm standing
under them, I feel I'm making a pilgrimage to a kind of pinnacle of
A lot of the enormous mosaics elsewhere
in the building have Christian themes, and you could say that in a
way these do, too. But they are abstract to a degree that I can see
things in them that make me think "Native American" or Sufi.
In truth, they simply seem to embody a universal Religion of Beauty.
If you ever get to St. Louis, do us
both a favor: go down to 4400 Lindell Boulevard and take a look.
Many of the ceiling mandalas utilize the universal
The sky blue, I imagine, represents the Vault of
Another Lotus motif. The Cathedral is a combination
of Byzantine and
Romanesque architecture. Islamic arabesques certainly come to my mind.
Here is a cross used as a central motif. The 4 points,
according to Carl
Jung in Man and His Symbols, form a "quaternity"
This is the clearest of my pictures. Both Heaven
and the Lotus;
to me, the work suggests the glorious, infinite layering of the Soul.
Another attempt to catch the entire room in one
next page: a few
more of my Cathedral photos
Tour of the entire Cathedral
(from the official Cathedral website, includes pictures of the huge
Max Reif's Home Page