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Cathedrals in Springfield, Massachusetts

When I brought up Google Maps for Springfield, Massachusetts and queried for nearby cathedrals, I expected the three that were already on my "Missed cathedrals" spreadsheet. In the past, I've encountered other churches which include "cathedral" in their name, but further research shows that there is no bishop or diocese, which are criteria for me to include the building in my itinerary. So when Google showed 5, I investigated Holy Redeemer Cathedral and The Christian Cathedral, and found them to be led by black bishops whose flock included multiple other churches. They are to be included, without the asterisk I use to mark a non-cathedral entry.

Departing to the west on "backroads" (rather than the Massachusetts Turnpike) and being directed to dip across the Connecticut state line, I pulled up to The Christian Cathedral and found a parking spot down the public street. An impressive dark brick building, the front doors had been opened when I first drove by, but were closed and the sign indicated services were in process. I took outside shots of the three story building with tall arched windows along the side aisles. A massive tower rose at the altar-end of the building's west flank, sporting radio towers within the turrets. Sited on a corner, I found the parking area was behind the building away from the side street.

The Christian Cathedral, Springfield MA

Not wanting to intrude during services (and feeling slightly closed out), I returned to the rental Nissan and plugged my next address into the Garmin. Less than 15 minutes later, I was in the parking lot for the Cathedral of St Michael the Archangel. After taking a few outside shots, I entered the nave from the side and found that Mass was underway, and that I'd missed the sermon.

Cathedral of St Michael the Archangel, Springfield MA

Finding an empty pew near the back, I observed and prayed. A big airy nave, red banners hung from the columns, and carved wooden Stations filled the white walls between the stained glass windows. Over the main entrance was a huge pipe organ in the loft, allowing me to view the pale blue area below the arched clerestory windows, and the gold filials on the vault. At the altar end, a side chapel contained the tabernacle, set in a hexagonal spire placed in front of a large mosaic depicting flames. A simple but solid marble altar was set up a single step from the main floor, with two steps up behind it to the bishop's cathedra. The half-dome and arch behind the altar and wooden cathedra is painted in the same pale blue-gray, with white icons painted on the surface between the cream columns, below a gold half dome and a large carved wooden crucifix. A thoroughly tasteful interior, but the congregation wasn't very friendly. For a Roman Catholic parish, that surprised me.

Past 11 with three more buildings to visit, I returned to the car and headed to Holy Redeemer Cathedral. Set in a residential area, there is a chest-high chain-link fence around the church and adjoining residence. After taking a handful of outside shots from the fence, Bishop Naylor appeared to ask why I was taking photos. Explaining my obsession, he remarked that The Christian Cathedral was headed by his brother. When I asked if I might enter his church, he declined, saying he was preparing for the noon service. (He had a makeup towel in his collar, and his hair was tightly netted down.)

Holy Redeemer Cathedral, Springfield MA

My stay was brief, and getting back into the car I pointed west towards Saint George Cathedral. The address I had took me across the street to the immense social hall for this Greek Orthodox church. Walking from the parking lot, I finally figured out the church was across the street, seemingly in a large traffic island. A stunningly preserved church, it bore no resemblance to any orthodox building I'd encountered. I learned it had been built in 1870, was on the National Historic Register, and was lovingly maintained. Constructed of granite stones, the roof was stripped with multi-colored slate. A square bell tower stood over one entrance. I truly believe there are no bad angles to view this gem on its slight rise above the street.

Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Springfield MA

The service had begun at 9:30, so I figured the building would be closed, however there had been an after-ceremony where high school graduates who had attended Greek Sunday school were honored. I entered the nave as the final speech was given, and was able to wander the nave as the congregation left for the feast across the street. I marveled at the Tiffany Studio windows, the clever customizing that had been done to make it an orthodox place of worship. (Thank goodness the Greek Orthodox believe in pews - two hours of standing would be hard for me to manage!)

Just past noon, I set off for downtown to the Episcopal Cathedral. I was hoping that the Sunday service had begun at 11, so that the building would still be open for me to get a few pictures inside. Arriving and finding a 2-hour parking spot under a shady tree, I read that the Choral Eucharist had been at 10, but a Spanish-language Mass would begin shortly. Christ Church Cathedral / Catedral Iglesia de Cristo is made of large cut deep red stone, prevalent in Springfield, and is located just around the corner from St Michael's I'd visited earlier. Surrounded by mature trees, it took me a bit to find my "perfect shot".

Christ Church Cathedral / Catedral Iglesia de Cristo, Springfield MA

The stolid square-block tower didn't seem to play any role in the interior. As the priest and congregants were setting up for the service, I was able to wander the nave and quire. A large rose window held place over the apparent entrance, with no loft, and with the same simple white walls of the rest of the nave. Dark wooden arches supported the ceiling, painted in panels of a blue-lavender shade. A small pipe organ sits off to the side, near the baptismal font. The walls of the quire in a half-dome are lined with dark carved wood, with the center being a stunningly lovely reredos. For the service, three women sang from in front of this carving, accompanied by a man with a guitar and a karaoke box. The marble altar table sits much further forward in the sanctuary. The ceremony was being broadcast, so I was distracted by the woman who kept moving back and forth between the panning camera and the one focused on the lectern or altar. Perhaps two-three dozen attended the hour long service. I joined the community afterwards for a cup of coffee, but was locked out of the facilities, unfortunately.

Back out into the bright sunshine (I was enjoying great weather), I became intrigued by the park behind high iron stakes. The entrance was to the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, a part of the Springfield Museums which happen to be located between the Episcopal and Catholic cathedrals. Besides the fantasy representation of Theodor Geisel's characters, there was also s statue representing the Brownist (Pilgrim) and Puritan settlers of eastern Massachusetts in the seventeenth century.

Back to the car, I phoned my retired priest friend Jerry in Hartford. I'd proposed dinner in an earlier email, but he's not great with technology. Jerry had just returned from a trip, so wasn't up for an outing, but welcomed me to his flat. Arriving about 3, we gabbed for almost 3 hours before I set out to the east to my lodgings in East Hartford. I opted for Indian cuisine, getting a Tandori sampler at Godavari.

On my ride to the restaurant, I noticed a pair of cemeteries on the side of the road. The setting sun lighted the monuments and flags solemnly, and I made it a point to return at twilight to take a photo with the smart phone. Unfortunately, the phone autocorrects more than my spellings, and the glowing golden light of the setting sun was edited out.

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