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Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska

Monday, 11 July

Rising at 7:30, a breakfast of a banana and coffee, I was back on the road before 9. It was just under a hundred miles to the capitol city of Lincoln, where I had two churches to visit.

St Mary’s Cathedral, Lincoln, NE

The first, the former St Mary’s Cathedral (1911-1965) sits on a corner across from the campus of the state capitol building. Two towers, the taller on the corner, are topped with black pointed crowns, mimicking the dark roof lines. Three archways open from K Street into the narthex. The clean-lines of the unlighted nave end in the arched half-domed bay with the altar. Stained-glass windows run alongside the pews, with four flanking the crucifix in the sanctuary. Over the narthex are the organ pipes and choir, with a south-facing rose window.

Heading out of downtown, where it seemed the state government had reserved all available parking spaces, I arrived at the Cathedral of the Risen Lord.

Cathedral of the Risen Lord, Lincoln, NE

Situated in the center of a large campus of 4-blocks in length, the cathedral is on a north-south axis and, from the outside, is what I would call “boxy”. Three-stories in height, a tall covered porch up a short flight of stairs fronts a building-high bay window. These panels are brilliantly-colored stained-glass in abstract patterns. Once entering the nave, exterior light comes from polyhedral-shaped stained-glass windows depicting post-Crucifixion stories, as well as broad triangular windows at the ceiling.

A clothed risen Christ statue stands in front of a stylized cross, just to the right of the raised cathedra, set center behind the altar table. I found the Marian chapel, with its near monochrome illustrations on the walls to be the brilliant element of the church. To the rear of the nave, the entire wall is a gorgeous abstract blue artwork in stained-glass. Opposite the Marian chapel is the tabernacle in a chapel with a Last Supper sculpture.

Outside, a Stations of the Cross garden had sculptures of the 14 stops on plinths. (Inside, the carved stations were mounted on the side walls.) From this angle near the altar end of the building, I was able to see that the metal columnar spire was being used as a radiowave tower. Also on the campus were the diocesan offices and school buildings. Many mature trees filled the property, making it a challenge to capture the scope of the building.

An hour east is Omaha, on the Iowa border and Missouri River. A suburb to the south, Bellevue, was my next stop, for another Church of God in Christ cathedral. Cathedral Church-God in Christ sits near a corner in a fairly rundown area, up on a rising hill. A two-story red-bricked building with a mansard roof, the portico covers those approaching from the circular drive. I was unable to detect any activity through the locked glass double doors.

I drove into town and pulled up outside the Episcopal cathedral. A funeral was underway, so I programmed in the next address, and headed west. With two tall domed bell towers, Saint Cecilia’s Cathedral has the traditional east-west layout.

Saint Cecilia’s Cathedral, Omaha, NE

Smooth, unadorned stone faces most of the exterior, with ornamentation at the tops of the towers and the Romanesque façade between them. Rounded arches supported the vault, with lovely stenciling on the ceiling. Entering the moderately lit nave from the main doors, the subdued lighting emphasized the brightly highlighted main altar. With a white marble backing, the gold crucified Christ on a dark gray stone cross draws the focus. The altar table had the shape of a sarcophagus, again dark stone. The curved wall of the sanctuary, under a stunningly stenciled dome, had warm redwood paneling at the floor level, with carvings for the cathedra and the Apostles, choir seating and the tone carried upward with paint. Opposite the bishop’s chair, the carved wooden pulpit had three-quarter sized figures of Evangelists and Church fathers.

Looking down the central aisle, with sunlight coming in through the clerestory windows, the pipe organ was central to the loft over the entrance. Along the side wall, in medallions above shrines, were murals depicting moments in the history of the Church. In the side aisle, the vault was a darker aqua, with gold stars stenciled into a pattern. Mosaics of various heraldic shields with dates lined the upper reaches of the side walls.

Leaving the church, I walked to the rear, where I was better able to visualize the floor plan. Seeing the side structures, used as side aisles; getting behind the front façade to determine the actual shape of the nave, viewing the circular formation of the eastern end: it made more sense to me. After one last shot from the front, I headed back downtown, arriving in ten minutes to find that the hearse was leading the head-lights-on procession away from the Episcopal cathedral. Pumping some change into the parking meter, I crossed and was able to enter Trinity Cathedral.

Trinity Cathedral, Omaha NE

With a vault like an inverted ship, the beams are black on a deep merlot-colored ceiling, which matched the carpet. The side walls, including those above the side arches supporting the clerestory windows, are all white. The quire has a bowed back wall, where the altar sits behind a rail. Carved choir seating as well as the bishop’s and dean’s chairs are placed below stained-glass windows depicting the apostles. Looking back towards the entry, a large four-panel stained-glass window with symbols and geometrics is between the organ trumpets. Similar windows fill the upper walls of the transepts. While the aisle windows portrayed stories and memorialized parishioners, the upper windows honored the parish churches within the diocese of Nebraska. And I found the carvings on the pulpit to be of note.

[Note: Having returned to Florida, I became curious as to what my actual “cathedral count” was – I’d been tossing off that I’d seen over 500 for much of the trip. When I tabulated it, I found that these two cathedrals (because I won’t put one ahead of the other) are the 499th and 500th. So Omaha achieves my landmark!]

Returning to the street, I began my navigation (dodging the occasional car or truck) to find the better representative angle. Back to the car, with a much-expired meter but not a ticket, I entered the address for my lodgings. The Indigo Downtown entry was just around the corner, and I was parked below their windows.

I moved the car around to the parking lot, checked in to a very nice room, did some minor unpacking and headed out for a late lunch. After trying a Dining for Miles place that was permanently closed, I wandered a bit and entered Pickleman’s after passing several places with vagrants hanging by the door. I ordered a salad and a root beer, and caught up on my journal. In my scribblings I noted that I was concerned about having two 300+ mile days ahead on the weekend.

After walking back to the hotel, I looked out my window to find I was overlooking Trinity Cathedral, so I took a shot. I fired up the Chromebook and began looking at my options for Friday, as I had lodgings booked in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Realizing that rather than those long driving days, I could skip Duluth and Superior, it would result in two days nearer to 200-miles, and only miss lunch with Leslie and two cathedrals. I sent her an email with my decision, and then processed emails and copied photos. My dinner option (with miles) was a 25-30 minute walk to Mariscos el Culichi. While Omaha seems to have a lot of urban apartments, there didn’t seem to be much activity where I walked. No “mom-and-pop” stores, bars, delis. The Mexican restaurant seemed to be doing mainly take-out business for perhaps 3-4 patrons while I was there, but I had a Negra Modelo with my Culichi Shrimp: bacon and cheese wrapped shrimp on yellow rice, tortilla, shredded lettuce, pico. Filling! Apparently this was a Sinaloa-style seafood establishment.

After walking back via a different route (Omaha has a very rectilinear street layout), I settled in for the evening. I’d checked at the desk, and the more socially active space was down closer to where I’d had lunch, but I figured that Monday night would be slow anywhere. Tackling my reader, I was able to finish another ebook.

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