Friday, 8 July
Balancing off the grueling drive on Thursday, the trip from OK City to Wichita was a breeze. I’d figured out the Versa’s cruise control, and despite I-35 having a 75 mph cap, I put the car at 70 and stayed in the right lane. The view out the windows were truly flatlands. Two stretches in Oklahoma were under construction, with the surfaces being scraped and repaved, and in Kansas the interstate was a toll road, at $2.75 for me.
Sitting on the corner of Broadway and Central, four columns rise under a portico, with raised black domes at the entry corners, and a larger black dome set back over the transept. Heading off the bat for yet another Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the Roman catholic see in Wichita had folks streaming in for Mass, so I joined them for a period of contemplation. In the narthex, the holy water fountain is a large infinity-pool type black onyx cross, set to also be used as a baptismal font. About 100 participants attended, departing without much interaction at the end. That large dome over the crossing is also a lantern, allowing much light into the sanctuary. Not visible from the front, yet another half dome holds the high altar with stenciled walls. Lights in the nave were extinguished once the acolytes had raced to snuff the lit candles
Over the entry is a choir loft, with the pipe for the organ filling the space in the arch over the doors. The chapels in the arms of the transept contrast: to the left is a tomb of the Reverend Emil Kapaun, who died a martyr as a chaplain in the Korean Conflict, while to the right are statues representing a pregnant Mary with her spouse, the carpenter Joseph, and two prints for Our Lady of Guadalupe and a Vietnamese Madonna and Child. A nun with whom I spoke pointed out the stained-glass window depicting Pentecost, with Mary sitting in the center of the room. When I mentioned a dearth of cathedrals named for female saints, other than the Virgin Mary, she told me that that issue had been raised at the Conference of Bishops. On this trip, only St Cecilia in Omaha would be the outlier.
As I was preparing to exit, I spoke briefly with a young man in some distress while passing the baptismal font, and then to the priest celebrant. He was originally from Navan, Ireland, and we talked about the cathedrals in Ireland, with me mentioning my intention to visit the former co-cathedral in his native town.
After getting my outside shots, I programmed the Garmin for the only Orthodox cathedral planned on the trip. St George Orthodox Christian Cathedral, which was a ways out of town, past numerous cemeteries. With three domes evident from the parking area, mosaics of icons brackets the larger one over the main entrance. After several doors, I found one open and was waved through by an office worker on the phone. Within the nave, a maintenance worker informed me that it was Antiochian Orthodox, and related that the ornamentation over the columns and the vault over the pews in the nave have been completed within the last 10 years.
At the crossing, the large dome featured more painted iconographic Church Fathers and saints, with a large chandelier hanging from the center. Christ the Alpha and Omega is depicted at the center of the dome’s interior. The carved wooden iconostasis bore four images on each side of the curtained central opening. So serene, it called to mind the original purpose of illustrations and figures in churches: as a mechanism to teach believers the stories of the Bible and the foundations of the Christian Church. With a plethora of illustrations, one can trace the development of this belief.
Most orthodox cathedrals and churches that I’ve been blessed to visit will have writing in Greek or Cyrillic, so it was worth asking why all was in English here. His reply was that few of the current population spoke the Eastern language, and that a monk had developed the typeface used specifically for this cathedral. With the cool color palette, I think I could spend hours studying the artwork, adding to my historical and religious knowledge.
My journey north had taken about an hour and a half, so I had time to wander Wichita. After putting the car into public parking next door, I checked into The Hotel at Old Town.
Maintenance was replacing the floor in the entry, creating hazards which required using alternate doors and weaving through the ground floor. My room was faced out across the street into a small park, and was comfortably appointed. A nice kitchenette, queen bed with a desk and reading chair, and a spacious bathroom with black-and-white tiles filled the space.
Checking the dining-for-miles website, I headed several blocks away (by foot) to Meddy’s. Food is ordered separately from the bar, so I got two “dines” when I ordered chicken shawrma and hummus, and then after spotting it, the last of their bottle of Auchentoshan whisky. First step was updating my journal while munching on my food and sipping my drink. Once finished, I wandered a bit in the bright sunlight. It was in the low 90’s, and I didn’t find the mainly one-story “old town” to have much of interest to me. I guess being older, one doesn’t really want to shop for “stuff”, particularly is one has to carry it around or have it shipped home.
One establishment I noted was River City Brewery, which I put on my dining options for the evening. I took a nap, finished email, and then grabbed my reader and headed for the brewery. Seated at the bar, I drank through 3 different offerings: Rock Island Red, Old Town Brown, and Emerald City Stout. The food, jumbo chicken wings, were sufficient for dinner, but being solo, older, and sitting at the bar on a Friday night didn’t trigger much in the way of conversation.
At the first cathedral, I’d been advised by street people that the building was lit at night and would make good photos. Not in any condition to drive, I called for an Uber, and my driver Jacob was prompt but curious. He asked if he could shadow me, and we walked around in the street trying to find angles which wouldn’t include the street light or the traffic signal. Mainly the entry, side lower walls and the larger central dome were under spotlights, with trees running the length of the sidewalks, resulting in not really great shots. At least it was an interesting experiment. We headed back to the hotel, and I read until it was time to sleep.