Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville, NC

In August we traveled to western North Carolina and decided to spend one afternoon exploring Asheville. We spent the few hours we had in the colorful and vibrant Downtown Arts District (complete with street performers playing Bluegrass music!). While walking around, we happened upon the beautiful Basilica of St. Lawrence. There has never been a church built that I didn't want to explore, so in we went! 

The Basilica had a very informative pamphlet at the main entrance so I'll be able to share a few interesting aspects of the Basilica along with some pictures! It was completed in 1909 and is a National Historic Site. The entire structure was built without a single beam of wood or steel! Only tile and other similar materials were used in its construction. (For more information, visit the Basilica's official website.)

Angle view of the brick exterior of St Lawrence Basilica in Asheville North Carolina

The interior is beautifully serene... One of the Basilica's main features is the dome that spans the entire nave and is considered to be the largest freestanding dome in North America. 

Atmospheric interior of St. Lawrence Basilica with parishioners admiring the splendor

Red altar of St. Lawrence Basilica with lady paying reverence to the crucified Christ

At the center of the main altar is the Crucified Christ with statues of his mother, Mary, and his beloved disciple, John, at the base of the cross. On both sides of the crucifixion scene are life size reliefs of the four evangelists and Archangels Michael and Raphael. The picture below shows, from left to right, Matthew (represented by the praying angel), Mark (represented by the lion), and Archangel Michael (defeating the devil with his sword).

Crucified Christ against a red background with the Virgin Mary and St. John at the foot of the cross

Wall carved images of evangelists Matthew and Mark and the archangel Michael

There are two large stained glass windows on either side of the nave, the one below depicts Jesus healing the sick.

Brilliant stained glass window depicting Jesus healing the sick against a dark church background

Cross and rose carved into the worn wooden pew of St. Lawrence Basilica with a strongly lit stained glass window in the background

As with the pews (above), the floors are embellished with crosses. A blood red cross is located at the base of the steps leading up to the main altar and, in the chapels, the stone tiles were placed in a cross pattern. (I love all the details!)

Mosaic of a red cross on a church floor with cracks

Cross pattern using rectangular stones on the church floor with smaller green tiles

Along the walls of the nave are niches with life size statues of St. Peter (pictured below), St. Cecilia, St. Patrick, and St. Rose of Lima. These statues flank the large stained glass windows.

Statue of St Peter holding the keys of Heaven in his left hand and summoning the people with his right

There are also two chapels: Eucharistic Adoration Chapel and Chapel of Our Lady. The latter is decorated in a beautiful light blue tile with an altar holding white marble statues of Our Lady of the Assumption and two angels.

Atmospheric lighting provided by a single candle which illuminates a carved cherub

Serene light blue chapel withe image of Our Lady, Mary, at the center flanked by kneeling angles and framed by 7 doves

At the entrance of the Chapel of Our Lady is an ornately decorated baptism font. On its top is the depiction of Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan at the hands of John the Baptist.  

Ornately sculpted white holy water font with sculptures showing a kneeling Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist

Hand carved wood door showing Jesus Christ carrying a sheep across his shoulder with the words Pastor Bonus carved below

I hope we get another chance to visit Asheville and explore more of this beautiful city! (While we were driving around, I spotted an very interesting church near the Biltmore Estate... Maybe on our next trip!)

Can you tell I love visiting churches? If this post left you wanting more pictures of magnificent churches, check out Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal and Saint-Anne-de-Beaupre just outside Quebec City.

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