the old cathedral st. louis
the old cathedral st. louis

About the Old Cathedral

In its early years, the Old Cathedral quickly became and remains today a very special place of spiritual nourishment, learning and civic life. Today, visitors to the church are transported back to the early days of St. Louis’ founding following Pierre Laclede’s dedication of the small riverfront settlement to the patronage of Saint Louis, King of France.

The structure of the Old Cathedral, completed in the autumn of 1834, is 136 feet long, 84 feet wide and sweeps to a height of 40 feet. The exterior stone façade and the four columns that support the Doric style portico are carved from Joliet stone, mined near Joliet, Illinois. It remains today, a prominent example of Greek Revival architecture in the United States.

Spanning the entire length of the portico is an inscription that reads: “In Honorem S. Ludovici. Deo Uni et Trino Dicatum. A. MDCCCXXXIV,” which translates as “In honor of St. Louis. Dedicated to the One and Triune God. 1834.” Above each of the three doors to the church is a slab of marble with an inscription from Apocalypse: “Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them.” Over the middle door, the inscription is in Latin. Over the east door, it is in English and the inscription is in French over the door to the west.

There are two additional slabs of marble on either side of the façade that bare the same inscription from the Gospel in French and English that reads: “My house will be called a house of prayer.”

The portico is crowned with a pediment engraved in the center with large gilded Hebrew characters that signify the name of God. Above the pediment rises a belfry which is twenty feet square and forty feet high. It is constructed of polished stone and  ornamented with two rows of pilasters and cornices. The octagonal steeple is forty-five feet high and is topped with a gilded brass ball and cross.

Still a vibrant and thriving parish, the Old Cathedral has over 200 dedicated parishioners.

A Symbol of Faith and Hope by the River

Since 1776, the Old Cathedral has:

  • Performed 18,752 baptisms including explorer William Clark’s five children and Sacagawea’s son
  • Witnessed 12,485 marriages
  • Conducted 28,152 burials, including 2,000 in the church’s graveyard until it was closed in 1857
  • Been home to 11 Bishops and  Archbishops, 29 pastors and 93 Assistant Pastors