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Old Cathedral in St. Louis undergoing restoration December 27, 2013

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Events, History, Preservation.
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The Old Cathedral in St. Louis, located next to the Gateway Arch grounds, is undergoing a privately funded $10 million restoration, reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The newspaper detailed what will happen to the 1834 church, also known as the Basilica of St. Louis King of France:

[T]he Old Cathedral will have new windows, air-conditioning and lighting, and a new sound system.

Construction crews are replacing damaged exterior stonework. The wooden floors, pews and altar rails will be sanded down to their original finish. Worn-out carpeting has been stripped away to reveal the intricate pattern of English tiles installed in the sanctuary floor in the 1850s.

“Once the restoration is complete, you’ll see a church that would look familiar to the people who attended Mass the night the manger scene was first set up,” Quirk said.

Part of the restoration will include the church’s cast iron nativity that dates to 1866. The nativity is on display through Jan. 6; there’s nothing like it anywhere. But instead of being shown for just a few weeks each year, the nativity eventually will go on display year-round in the church museum.

A photo gallery of the church’s restoration is here.

Although the church isn’t on Route 66, it’s often visited because travelers detour a few blocks from the Mother Road to check out the adjacent Gateway Arch.

I hold a great fondness for the Old Cathedral. Catholics in the area often cite the newer and more ornate Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis further west, as they should. But I always liked the simplicity of the Old Cathedral more. It bet Pope Francis, who seems to value humility more than grandiosity, would cherish it if he ever came to visit.

I’m also fond of the Old Cathedral because I visited it at the start of my very first Route 66 trip in the late 1990s. A crude Route 66 map in hand from a QuikTrip convenience store to guide me, I knelt in front of dozens of lighted candles and said a prayer for safety before my journey. Little did I know that trip would change my life.

(Image of the Old Cathedral and Gateway Arch by Steven Martin via Flickr)

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