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Pilgrimages to Ancient Churches

September 13, 2009

I just discovered another great Catholic website (altho, it’s continuously flashing ads are annoying). has a little bit of most everything Catholic.

It “is a web based apostolate, directed by the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi Movement, intended to equip Catholics with information to help them build a Christlike character, so that they can engage and transform the culture with the Truth of the Gospel transmitted to us by the Holy Mother Church, which is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.”

In their Lifestyle menu they have a Pilgrimages selection with a number of interesting pilgrimage options. In the Off the Beaten Path selection, they walk you through London, England.

When visiting the main sights in London, you should always be aware that there is a historical church close by.

Visitors to the Barbican Centre or the Museum of London should go see the Church of St. Bartholomew the Great, a rare example of Norman architecture. It’s the surviving remnant of a priory founded in 1123 by Rahere, who was both court jester to King Henry I and a monk — surely a unique combination.

The Church of All Hallows by the Tower of London can claim to be the oldest church in the City of London (a smaller city within London), having been founded in 675. Although the church was almost totally destroyed during World War II, an arch from the original Saxon church survives. Beneath the arch is a Roman pavement, discovered in 1926. Being the nearest church to Tower Hill, where executions took place, the beheaded bodies of such notables as St. Thomas More were brought into the church.

Visitors to the Victoria and Albert Museum or Natural History Museum in South Kensington should make sure to visit the Brompton Oratory, which is also close to Harrods department store. The Oratory was built in 1884, and thus became the first Catholic church to be built in England after the Reformation. In fact, it’s the only church in this article that is still Catholic. The style is Italianate baroque and is an exact imitation of the Gesu Church in Rome. Some beautiful, exported genuine Italian fittings predate the building. The crowning dome is 50 feet in diameter.

In Basilica of Saint Louis, King, they review the history of the Old Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri.

The story of St. Louis’ Old Cathedral is intimately tied to the city that took shape around it. In 1764 city founders Pierre Laclede and his first lieutenant, Auguste Chouteau, knew well the importance of faith in their burgeoning community. One of their first decisions was to set aside a piece of land for the erection of a Catholic church.

The cathedral’s story began in 1770 when a small log cabin church was built just several hundred yards from the mighty Mississippi River. Six years later, this mission church of St. Louis was recognized as a canonical parish.

1n 1826 St. Louis became a diocese which covered close to half of present-day America, with Bishop Joseph Rosati serving as its first leader. The cornerstone of the present structure was laid in 1831, and the cathedral was dedicated three years later, making it the first cathedral west of the Mississippi.

At the turn of the 20th century, plans were made for a larger cathedral to be built several miles west of the riverfront. This monumental structure was dedicated in 1914. The Old Cathedral continued its day-to-day work as a downtown city parish. In 1961, it took on a new role when Pope John XXIII declared it a basilica. By doing so, the Pope recognized this holy and historical building as a gift to the universal Church and not just to the community of St. Louis.

The interior has a colonial aura to it. No intricate handiwork or dazzling colors here. Rather plain hues and simple designs give the church a simple feel. Antique chandeliers from the ceiling hang on both sides of the altar. I suspect that not much has been changed in the decoration and ornamentation in the cathedral’s long history.

In the 1930s the St. Louis riverfront had fallen into decay. Plans were being laid to renew this area of the original city settlement by building a historic monument. Thirty-three years later ground was broken on the St. Louis Arch, a memorial that commemorates Thomas Jefferson and the westward expansion of the United States.

The only building to be spared in the plan was the Old Cathedral.

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