Two days in Southern Minnesota
Wednesday 13 July
Up a little earlier due to a full bladder, but after a muffin and juice, I was underway, heading east 155 miles to New Ulm, Minnesota. Smooth roadways most of the way, although there was a jam up exiting into the city due to road construction. Once Garmin stopped insisting on turns that weren’t permitted (yes, I know I need to use Waze), I was able to visit the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.
A single central clock tower rises over the eastern entrance, nine steps up from the State Street sidewalk. I’d made good time, 3 hours with the detour, and arrived to find an empty nave and no midday Mass.
From the entry, a deep loft housing the organ pipes is above that end of the central aisle. Smooth white quad-columns with gold capitals support the arches and vault. Large stone painted stations are mounted between the stained-glass windows on light cream-colored walls. Ahead, the sanctuary is in the half bowl, with murals of the Trinity and the twelve apostles on the dome surface. The reredos of the altar is ornately carved white marble with statues representing Peter and Paul flanking the dome in back of the gold tabernacle on the high altar. A substantial carved altar table is in front, with the tall wooden cathedra to the south.
Pleasant enough, I admired the intricacy of the reredos carvings, but a plaque on the wall of a sleeping young Jesus laying on a cross caught my eye. Very different, it was an unusual representation in my experience. The side altars were for Mary (left) and Joseph. A gilded carved baptistry font, on wheels, was placed by the Joseph altar. Several oval medallion murals were placed in the upper reaches, almost allegorical views of the life of Christ (other than one near the loft which shows angels listening to a friar playing an organ.)
Following US14 east and all its construction-related detours, it was about 80 minutes to Faribault, and the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour, also known as “The First Cathedral.” Parking in the bank’s lot next door, I noted that the roof over the nave was being replaced, and hoped that I might still gain entrance. Walking completely around the building, all doors were locked, and the phone number for a tour was disabled. I found a carving which stated this was the first Episcopal cathedral of the American Church, built 1862-69.
The large Minnesota Historical Society marker gives a fuller history. [While walking around the building, I came across a younger blond man who was in the process of drying out his bedding in the sunny courtyard. Probably living rough, he was grateful for a small handout.]
Onward to the east and Minneapolis. As I was coming to expect, surface streets near St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral were under repair. Trusting my gut, I drove around the neighborhood and bypassed a barrier to park in the cathedral’s parking lot. A tall limestone building with a single belltower on the northwest corner closer to the nearby freeway, I got a few outside shots and found an open side door. A young man was practicing on the quire organ, so I treaded lightly and attempted to not distract while I was enjoying his playing. The interior walls and vault are all exposed finished stone, giving a warm aura to the nave.
A significant portion of the interior includes ornately carved wood. The rood screen into the quire, the spire over the stone baptismal font, the lectern with its sounding board, the stalls and the reredos all were beautiful and inspiring. The stained-glass windows are smaller on the floor level and single, while on the clerestory level they are wider and taller, in panels of three. Blue is the predominate color of glass used, which kept the light in the church muted. Of particular delight was the three-panel window to St Mark, which was near to the rear loft.
At that point in my exploration of the cathedral, my camera told me I had no more room on the chip. In addition to always having spare charged batteries, I also keep a spare SD chip, but it was in the trunk of the car. Exiting to the parking lot, I switched it out, and then headed down Lyndale Avenue alongside I-94 to the Co-cathedral Basilica of Saint Mary, all of 1000 feet away. (An impressive stone Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church was in the opposite direction.) Similar to St Mark’s, “America’s First Basilica” is oriented north-south, but here the entrance is to the south. The parking situation was confusing, as much seemed restricted to use for the several schools nearby.
Upon entering (I decided to put off the outside shots, hoping for less stark shadows with a lowering sun,) the downward spotlights in the vault and the large stained-glass windows in the clerestory provided a moderate amount of lighting. Over the south entrance was a rose window depicting a Madonna with angels, surrounded by smaller round windows. (Similarly, in the transepts, Mary crowned as Queen of Heaven, and Mary with angels have the same ring of smaller windows.) Opposite, on the high altar, marble columns supported a heavy baldachin. Columns with wrought iron gating surrounded the predella on three sides, with tall statues representing the apostles placed on the beam over this “wall”. In the ambulatory were several displays of religious art and relics, as well as the choir and organ keyboard and pipes.
Along the floor, the windows featured figures from the Old Testament on the east side, with post-Resurrection figures on the west. Above, in double panels, the story of Mary progresses around the nave. In shrines around the walls, various representations were displayed, an Arab Madonna and Child, Our Lady of Guadalupe. The vault was stunning, in an overdone way, with carvings and gilding of geometric elements.
Leaving, I went out to the front and found my shot. Noticing the lower-level doors, I went into and looked at the undercroft. As I walked back towards my car, I spotted several statues to more contemporary saints. It was approaching rush hour, and I had to tell the Garmin to use surface streets. Shortly thereafter, I was checking into Aloft, and then put my car next door in public parking. From my room I had a view of the end of USBank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings) which was next to the Guthrie Theater. (An event there that evening meant I paid extra for parking.) The hotel had a very active happy hour, so after settling in, I returned and got a whisky and queued up to pick over the elaborate spread. As there was a (near deaf?) DJ, I retreated to my room to eat a plate full of food while I updated the journal and backed up the photos.
Trader Joes was just down the street, so I headed out once I had finished processing emails, and collected a few essentials, both for immediate consumption (bananas, tangerine juice, nuts, chocolate) and for the next trip (soap, shaving cream). I noted that I had actually driven about 8 hours that day, and was convinced that I really didn’t want to do more of that. After a phone call to Mexico and more reading, I crashed.
Thursday, 14 July (Bastille Day)
While a cold buffet breakfast was offered in the lobby, I was happy to eat a banana and drink juice. Heading out at 9:15, I was off to the northwest to St Cloud. My impression of St Cloud is that it is a town with few tall buildings and very flat. Just down the street from the domed Stearns County Court House (at 3 stories), St Mary’s Cathedral rose to about 2½ stories (the undercroft is about half above ground level) with a 120-foot 3-bell tower in the southwest corner. Faced with brick, the style is Romanesque with five arches at the top of stairs up from the sidewalk. I found the center door unlocked, entering the narthex with a brick tiles floor. The nave feels like a long, narrow space, with pews outside the side aisles beyond the arches supported by gray-black marble columns. Above the arches is white, rising to a flat wooden ceiling. At the west end, the altar table sits on a predella outside the recessed arched ambo with the chrome organ pipes. To the right of the pipes, up three steps, is a blocky throne of gray stone, backed by a long embroidered hanging.
Per the self-guided tour leaflet, the crucifix continues the Romanesque style, showing a Johnannine Christ which was unique to this trip. The Presence Lamp hangs before the wood tabernacle, which has a Marian icon nearby. The Stations are bas-relief, painted in pastels and lovely. There is a brilliantly carved shrine to St Cloud, the grandson of Clovis, King of the Franks, and a replica of the statue from the shrine in St Cloud, France.
Down stairs to the undercroft, a Pieta was the first statue I encountered. Dark bronze, it sits between another set of Stations. With seating on three sides, the simple stark altar table is backed by a stunning stylized cross which features the Evangelists.
My next objective was a return to the Twin Cities and head across the Mississippi to St Paul. The Cathedral of Saint Paul, National Shrine of the Apostle Paul is on a rise overlooking downtown, which is dominated by the dome of the state capitol. Crossing the river and dealing with many cloverleaf interchanges made arriving in one piece feel like a feat of skill. Street parking a few blocks away (in a neighborhood that appears to be slipping,) the large black dome recalled the dome of the basilica from the day before. I had to cross streets and step back as I continued to try to find a good angle, particularly since the building sits on a rise. On a true east-west axis with the large dome rising over the crossing, my choices were either looking southwest or northwest.
Entering after climbing the stairs, a long narthex allows one’s eyes to adjust from the sunlight. At the north end is a replica of the Michelangelo La Pieta, which has an unobstructed view much better than the one you get when in St Peter’s in Vatican City. Entering into the nave, I was hit with a strong sense of déjà vu: I recalled the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Louis in St Louis. As I learned from the guide during a tour, when designing this, the fourth cathedral, a visit to St Louis proved a major factor in the inspiration for the design. At the west end, the high altar sits under a half dome, with a baldachin supported by black marble columns. Looking up into the massive, huge dome, one sees the 24 windows of the lantern, the 8 primary ribs of ornamentation and a star chandelier.
The blue rose windows of the transept ends honor Jesus and Mary, with smaller monks performing acts. Over the entrance and above the organ pipes in the loft is a third rose window, the Lamb of God. Multiple shrines fill the walls, the more major of them in setbacks under half- or full domes. Walking the ambulatory, my attention flashed from the right side, and the brass grating protecting the sanctuary, to the left, where statues honored the patron saints of the countries whose immigrants built the cathedral shrine. At the crossing, large statues of the four Evangelists stool in alcoves below ornately framed murals to Justice, Fortitude, Temperance and Prudence. My notes record my observation that themes, consisting of numerous groupings of 4, 7, 8, … were related over the course of the hour talk. Additionally, despite being the shrine to Paul, I felt Peter got about as much “screen time”.
Almost overwhelmed, I returned to my car and found a much easier way back to the garage and hotel. As a precaution, I backed up my photos, and then left for the Crooked Pint Ale House for a late lunch. Ordering the Alehouse Walleye and chips (I’d been advised to eat walleye, rather than cod, while in fresh water country) and an Alesmith Nut Brown (Nitro).
Once I finished writing up my day in my journal, and eating half a cream cheese stuffed chocolate cookie caramel sundae, I continued down Washington Avenue until I made a left and arrived at the ballpark. Forced to download and install the MLB app (I hate having anything that might track me on my phone), I got a ticket and proceeded to walk the promenade around the Target Field concessions.
Still full from dinner, I got a draft and found my seat. Pregame events included honoring about a dozen high school age ball teams, several ceremonial first pitches, and a choir singing the National Anthem. I’d decided to cheer for the visitors, the Chicago White Sox, who took the lead immediately and never yielded. Three home runs, including a grand slam, I’d guess the stadium was about a third to a half full on a Thursday evening. It spritz briefly, but not enough to stop action. One really cool thing: at the seventh inning stretch, almost everyone in the park was singing “Take me out to the ballgame” at volume – something I’d not really experienced at other parks. Plus there was a bench-clearing scuffle at home plate.
As I left, I checked with a customer service agent to ensure I was pointed in the correct direction. Hearing that I intended to walk back on Washington, she advised I be aware. About a mile walk, I stayed alert and walked with my camera inside my drawstring backpack, and got to the hotel without incident. I had a voice message, for a call that came in as I was heading to the park, from Leslie regarding our lunch “date”. I texted her back that I wasn’t coming to Duluth, and advised her to find my earlier email. Rain was expected overnight, but I was hoping for clear skies and roads as I went to bed.
[Note: After I initially planned this trip, I discovered that there is a Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Minneapolis. I had it in my spreadsheet of cathedrals to see, but neglected to update the itinerary. Now, I find that there is a second Orthodox cathedral there, an Ethopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. I will have to return and visit and photograph the Re'ese Adbarat Tserha Aryam Kidist Selassie Cathedral, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and St Mary’s (Russian) Orthodox Cathedral.]