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Illinois: Peoria, Springfield, Belleville

Ø 9 November: to Peoria and Springfield, ending in Belleville

At the Inn in Quincy, a buffet continental breakfast was available starting at 6, not offering anything that would generate much interest with me. I toasted a small, stale mini-bagel, put cream cheese and peanut butter on it, and ate it. The OJ was miserable. So I was away, out in sunny, above freezing weather heading east another 135 miles to Peoria.

A link to the photo album for this post are here.

Per my notes, the ride to #Peoria took forever. Rolling hills kept it from being too boring, with the trees in colors of rust, dark verdigris, brown and gold. More white-gold corn stalks alternated with tilled fields of gray or black soil. When I’d picked up the Kia, they’d offered Cruise Control as if it were an option, so I didn’t discover it until Saturday morning, which allowed me to just push along at the speed limit. (I’d been advised by a neighbor from Illinois that the constabulary offered little in the way of grace when stopped for speeding.)

Arriving in Peoria, the Garmin directed me right to St Paul’s Church, a former Episcopal cathedral (1963-2014). An unusual building, it was a two-story brick block of a building, with windows only on the north end wall and the smaller side aisles. A complex, the nave formed the west side of a rectangular donut, with offices, meeting rooms, classrooms, and storage built around a contained courtyard. A separate brick bell tower sits to the north of the building.

Interior view of St Paul's Church, Peoria looking to the Great Window.

Upon entering the building, people were gathering for a memorial service to be held in an hour. After checking for permission, I continued to explore this stark large open space with so many right angles. The main altar was situated in the center of the nave, with a simple cross suspended from the ceiling, fixed wooden pews faced the altar from both north and south ends. A small altar and tabernacle were set on the east wall as a chapel, albeit within the open space.

The west wall was colored glass, with a large “cartoonish” design, designated the “Great Window”. Per the extremely detailed self-guided tour pamphlet, it depicts the story of St. Paul. A loft with organ pipes rose above a social gathering area. A string quartet had come together to play while folks gathered and chatted before the service. I never met a member of the clergy, although I did walk the full “donut”.

As I drove towards the Catholic cathedral, I stopped at a traffic light across from a large five-story brick structure on the corner. A sign out front proclaimed it to be the Scottish Rite Masonic Cathedral. While I don’t believe the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite has bishops, Wikipedia lists 15 similarly named buildings in the United States. Further reading on this rite of Freemasonry shows no rank of bishop; the closest would be pontiff or patriarch. I suspect I’ll not include these buildings in my books, until I learn otherwise.

The Peoria Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception on NE Madison Avenue has double spires with slate covering the top levels over the stone bell towers. Inside this tall white stone clad building, the ceiling vault is a brilliant blue with white arch tracery. The ceiling in the narthex, similarly blue, depicts the night sky overhead when the building was declared a cathedral by Pope Pius XI. Bright and airy, stained glass windows are on all sides. I arrived at the end of 11am Mass, so was able to explore the nave until a religious chased me out to lock up the church.

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Peoria, Illinois.

A double level gallery in the rear features the organ console and pipes on the upper level, as well as seating (for the choir?) on the lower. The sanctuary is topped by a half dome, set back as an apse from the nave. The cathedra is on the right as one faces the altar, outside this bow. The throne is a wooden armchair cushioned in a red brocade, placed a foot in front of a panel with the bishop’s seal and a carved wooded canopy.

Behind the bishop’s throne is the tomb and shrine of #FultonSheen, an archbishop and TV personality (“Life is Worth Living”) from my childhood. Bishop Sheen had origins in Peoria, was ordained there, and his remains were relocated from St Patrick’s Cathedral in the middle of 2019. Efforts are underway within the Peoria diocese to move forward with the canonization of Archbishop Sheen.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t permitted into the altar space, so my pictures of the reredos and the paintings of angels surrounding the altar are at angles. Leaving, the main doors are pairs of double doors, painted ultramarine and garnished with elaborate brass fittings. Parting from Peoria, I headed south about 75 miles for the Illinois state capitol.

The drive south “was a breeze”, as I moved through the center of Illinois. My itinerary had me entering the #Springfield Catholic cathedral as my initial stop. Just after 1pm I was pulling into the fairly empty parking lot north across Lawrence Avenue from the building. I started taking outside shots down Sixth Street, as I figured that the wedding I’d been told about would start at 2 – the parking lot was empty. Well, there is another lot to the west in back, and it was full. I opened the door from the narthex into the nave, and the front pews were fairly full, and there seemed to be a crowd up in the sanctuary. I took a quick shot, unfortunately slightly out of focus, as I realized that the bishop was in his cathedra to the left of the bridal couple, and seven deacons seated to their right. (Deacons wear a gray shirt.)

The Cathedral Church of St Paul, Springfield, Illinois

Guessing that it would be another hour, I decided to check out the Episcopal cathedral. The Cathedral Church of St Paul is six blocks west on Lawrence at the corner of Second Street. The walk took me by the Dana Thomas House, a Frank Lloyd Wright landmark. St Paul’s was locked: I’d heard from a priest there that the interior would be unavailable Saturday afternoon, so I did my walk around and took outside pictures. A stone building with a large five-story tower over the entrance, it appeared to have a single outdent where the transept might be. Clerestory windows over the aisle were triplet lights, while the side aisle windows are pairs.

Off to the north was the dome of the #StateCapitol building. Heading down Second Street, I crossed East Cook Street to arrive at this magnificent building set in a huge expanse of grass. The normal entry was closed, but I was able to enter through the north portico. Security checked my backpack, and I walked down the hall and under the rotunda. Being a Saturday afternoon, I didn’t expect a tour to be available, but soon a group of foreign students arrived for the 2pm tour, and I was included with several other tourists. Joel, a public employee in the Secretary of State’s organization, guided us for an hour.

Illinois State Capitol Building

From the ground floor, I walked up four flights (the students took the lifts) with several others as we chatted with Joel. First into the House chamber, which is used as the House in D.C. for many movies. Across to the Senate, we were again able to look over the gallery railings to the wooden desks and padded chairs two levels below. We descended a flight, where the view of the dome was better. The grand staircase to the second floor had a very large oil painting depicting a meeting of French and Native Americans. It may be the largest oil painting in the US. The dome is higher than that in Washington, another bragging point from Joel. On the second floor, portraits of Illinois governors who had completed their terms were mounted. Political separation of the dozen statesmen’s statues ringing the overlook included Stephen A Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, as well as Lincoln’s colleague Wood who shared John Quincy Adams as a mentor. [Quincy, where I’d overnighted, was named for the sixth president; it is in Adams County, and the main street is John Street. Joel indicated that they didn’t want a confusing message.] After walking by the Governor’s Office, we entered what had been the State Supreme Court room. Now used for hearings, the court is located in a building across the street. This room is highly ornate, with paneled ceiling and extensive stenciling on the walls.

Leaving the building, wedding pictures were underway – so I was careful with my timing so that I didn’t photo-bomb the proceedings. Pictures of the Capitol, St Paul’s and the #DanaThomas House on my way back to the Catholic cathedral kept me alert. Reaching the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, I was concerned that the building might be locked, as it was 3pm.

The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Springfield, Illinois

Lucking out, I was able to enter, finding the interior to be very reminiscent of the Catholic Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville. Boxy, the light-colored columns line the side aisle, the ceiling reminded me of a waffle with gold and white panels. The stained-glass windows are all light in color, so much natural light enters the nave. My out-of-focus shots of the cathedra, indicate a mildly gilded wide wooden armchair with black cushioning set off to the left side of the sanctuary. On a slightly raised platform, a dark wooden panel backs the throne. The stations are mosaics. A small side chapel includes an icon to the Virgin, with perhaps three dozen relics displayed for veneration.

Leaving Springfield with several other to-see sites missed, it was just about 3:30 and I had a 105-mile ride to take to #Belleville. My notes indicted Mass would be at 5:30, so I wanted to arrive with enough daylight for pictures, and then attend the service. Interstate 55 allowed me to cruise along at the 70 mph speed limit, and I arrived just as the sun was dipping below the horizon. Approaching, a big empty field sits to the west of the church, and I got a good shot before heading to the parking lot. (The cathedral sits just a bit below the rise of this field, so I don’t think I can use this picture.)

St Peter’s Cathedral was emptying when I got out of the car, as the Saturday vigil Mass is at 4, not 5:30. Recognizing that I’d have just a few minutes inside, I scooted in and began my tour of the interior, camera clicking away. The main altar was decorated with autumnal produce, with the canopied cathedra set off to the left. This tall, large, beautiful church is warm and inviting, with cream colored stone rising five stories to the vaulted arched ceiling. An organ loft sits over the north entry. A lower ceilinged side chapel was set aside for the reserved sacrament, with a painting of the Last Supper on its back wall with a pretty tabernacle to the side.

St Peter’s Cathedral , Belleville, Illinois

The lights were slowly being extinguished, as I chatted with a parishioner who was the mother of the 15-year-old young man closing up the building. Outside, I caught a number of shots of the exteriorly lighted cathedral, as dusk rolled across the sky. Pesky street light posed some challenge. A full moon had risen, but it just wouldn’t fit into a shot.

Exiting the church parking lot, it was a short drive through downtown to my lodgings, the Super 8. I had a ground floor room, no flourishes, but it was quiet and clean. Located in the heart of downtown, I had several options for dinner. I selected the Tavern on Main, and ordered a Civil Life American Brown Ale to start, along with Bourbon Wings. I must have thought I was starving, because I also got a side Caesar Salad and Capellini with Meatballs. The wings were spicy and good. (I would have liked them cooked a bit more, but …) The salad was soaking in the dressing, and I was about half way through when the pasta arrived. Tasty tomato sauce, the meatballs were uninspired, so the whole dish needed a lot of parmesan. I was able to eat about half, and asked my waiter if there was a homeless population in downtown, as I would want to pass along what I couldn’t eat. As I sipped my second beverage, a vanilla bean porter, I relaxed in this busy establishment.

Walking back from the tavern all of 3-4 blocks, I saw no street people, but I hoped that the waiter would make good for me. Back to the room, there were plenty of plugs to charge the camera battery, the phone and the tablet. I did some Internet, and then read until 10 before folding for the night.

Google album of photos in Peoria, Springfield IL and Belleville (Saturday)

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