Royalty in the Cathedral

Royalty in the Cathedral

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by Meghan Ferrara

PHOTO BY MARY LOU OLSEN

Out of the blazing sun, I stepped across the threshold into the cool sanctuary of the Cathedral. It was August 24, 2014 — the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Louis and the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city of St Louis. I was there for a Mass which quite literally linked Catholic France and the city that grew from this rich heritage. On this royal weekend, it wasn’t easy finding a seat, due to the large number of attendees. It seemed as though all of St. Louis turned out for this commemoration.

       PHOTO BY MARY LOU OLSEN

The elegant grey stones and vibrant hues of the exquisite mosaics always fill me with pride for this jewel of “the Rome of the West”. Named for St. Louis, King of France, who is also the patron saint of this Midwestern American city, the cathedral was completed in 1914. Its consecration took place a decade later on June 29, 1926 and St. Pope John Paul II designated the church as a basilica in 1997.

PHOTO BY MARY LOU OLSEN

THE MOSAICS:  A defining feature of the Cathedral Basilica is its mosaic installation, one of the largest in the western hemisphere. The beauty of these mosaics creates a profound sense of the sacred throughout the cathedral.

PHOTO BY MARY LOU OLSEN

Mosaics in the narthex of the church depict the life of King Louis IX of France. The rear dome includes mosaics of significant archdiocesan events, and the main dome portrays Biblical scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

The Royals

Though it is always a privilege to visit the Cathedral, this trip held particular significance. St. Louis was being honored with a visit from Prince Louis Alphonse de Bourbon and his wife, Princess Marie Marguerite, the Duke and Duchess of Anjou. A direct descendant of St. Louis, the prince is considered the head of the House of Bourbon and rightful claimant to the French crown by the Legitimist faction of French royalists, who also consider him as the senior male heir of Hugh Capet, as he is also the senior descendant of King Louis XIV of France through his grandson King Philip V of Spain.

The Clerics

Other notables in attendance were the Archbishop of Reims, pictured above. Thierry Jordan is a descendant of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne who made major contributions to the establishment of Catholic education in the St. Louis area. Also there were Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, Justin Cardinal Rigali, and the Archbishop of St. Louis, Robert Carlson.

PHOTO BY MARY LOU OLSEN

The Mass

The spicy aroma of incense, the solemn notes of the Gregorian chant, and the elegance of the liturgical Latin and formal English evoked the splendor and majesty of the royal family of the “eldest daughter of the church”.

The most thrilling part for me of the already beautiful Mass was receiving Holy Eucharist in the presence of their royal highnesses. That simple act encapsulated why I fell in love with France, once upon a time.

“Saint Louis, King of France, pray for us!” I prayed, as I genuflected and left the church, stepping out into the warm August evening. I look forward to sharing the memory with my children someday.

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