Founded by French Catholics and named after a thirteenth-century king who was later canonized, St. Louis has been called the Rome of the West. Churches are among the most prized landmarks in St. Louis, reflecting both the faith of its citizens and their appreciation for fine art and imposing architecture.
Two cathedrals are must-see sites. The most famous is the Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, which blends a Romanesque exterior with a Byzantine interior. Built a century ago, its walls feature the world’s largest mosaic collection, a golden expanse of images that tell the history of Christianity and the city. While smaller in size, Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal church designed in the English Gothic style, is another stately gem, with Tiffany stained glass windows and an elaborately carved altar screen modeled on that at St. Alban’s Cathedral in England.
Other important religious landmarks in the area include the Shrine of St. Joseph, a healing shrine with an exuberantly Baroque interior and Italian-Renaissance-style altar, and Historic Trinity Lutheran Church, the mother church for the Missouri Synod Lutherans. In nearby Florrisant, the Old St. Ferdinand Shrine honors both a Spanish saint and Mother Philippine Rose Duchesne, a pioneer woman who became America’s fourth saint (an added attraction for the romantic is the shrine’s relic from St. Valentine).
Religious history is also preserved at the Collection of the Western Jesuit Missions, which is located on the third floor of the Saint Louis University Museum of Art. Beginning in the seventeenth century, Jesuit missionaries played an important role in the life of St. Louis and the larger region. The museum’s exhibits chronicle this intertwining of pioneer and Jesuit history. Among its most interesting artifacts are those belonging to Jean Pierre De Smet, a Jesuit who worked tirelessly in the nineteenth century on behalf of American Indians. He is said to have traveled more than 180,000 miles on his journeys, an astonishing figure for a time period when travel was slow and difficult.
While in the St. Louis area, you can also take a short drive across the Missouri River to visit the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, one of the largest outdoor shrines in North America, and the Church of the Holy Family, the oldest continually operating Roman Catholic parish in the United States.
- Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis
- Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis
- Old St. Ferdinand Shrine in Florissant, Missouri
- Shrine of St. Joseph
- Historic Trinity Lutheran Church
- National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows
- Church of the Holy Family
- Dining and Lodging in St. Louis
For travel information on the city, see St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.