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Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

St. Louis, MO

North dome (Dome of the Twelve Apostles)

Twelve Apostles, 1958

Commissioned by: George John MaguoloMedium: Byzantine-style glass mosaic; stained glassFabricated by: Pühl & WagnerInstalled by: Ravenna Mosaics

Hildreth Meière’s work in the main sanctuary of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis includes nine commissions in Byzantine-style glass mosaic designed between 1945 and 1961.1

North dome (Twelve Apostles) and north wall with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine

North dome (Twelve Apostles) and north wall with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine

In 1957, Meière decorated the north dome with the Twelve Apostles. Her fourteen-foot-high, individualized figures of the Twelve Apostles on the dome radiate from a central cross surrounded by four six-winged seraphim, around which is inscribed Christ’s Charge to the Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Gold rays radiate from the center of the dome containing a cross surrounded by four six-winged seraphim, to each apostle.

Faherty, William Barnaby, The Great Saint Louis Cathedral, 1988.

Faherty, William Barnaby, The Great Saint Louis Cathedral, 1988.

Meière’s design was inspired by the sixth-century dome of the Arian Baptistry in Ravenna, Italy:

Dome, Arian Baptistry, Ravenna, with Baptism of Christ and Apostles © vvoe/shutterstock.com

Dome, Arian Baptistry, Ravenna, with Baptism of Christ and Apostles © vvoe/shutterstock.com

North dome (Twelve Apostles)

North dome (Twelve Apostles)

Meière designed stained glass windows separating the figures of the Apostles so that a soft light would enter. Each window incorporates the symbol of the adjacent apostle.2 Like the glass mosaic of the dome, the windows were fabricated in Berlin by Pühl & Wagner and installed by their American affiliate Ravenna Mosaics. Meière described the windows:

I have used only three values, placed at random, so that no set pattern appears, and if there is a variation in the individual glass, so much the better, but the values must be close so that the windows remain a unit.3
North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 1

North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 1

North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 2

North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 2

North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 3

North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 3

North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 4

North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 4

North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 5

North dome (Twelve Apostles), window 5

Meière’s non-figurative treatment of the south dome of the cathedral echoes that of the north dome in both color and design of the center. The Great Seal of the Archdiocese of St. Louis at the center of the south dome recalls the cross surrounded by four six-winged seraphim on the north dome:

North dome (Twelve Apostles)

North dome (Twelve Apostles)

South dome

South dome

At the time she designed the Dome of the Twelve Apostles, Meière wrote how she enjoyed being able to create a design without feeling constrained by the work of earlier artists, even though she carefully blended her work with pre-existing decoration: “I feel that the placing and the subject matter of the remaining spaces gives me far more freedom than those I have just completed.”4 Meière was referring to the two pendentives of the north dome.

1

For a full discussion, see Catherine Coleman Brawer, Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière (St. Bonaventure, New York: St. Bonaventure University, 2009): 90-99 and Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière (New York: Andrea Monfried Editions, 2014): 118-31.

2

St. Louis Review, September 26, 1958.

3

Hildreth Meière, letter to Paul Heuduck, May 13, 1957, Saint Louis University Archives. DOC REC 50 (Ravenna Mosaic Company Records).

4

Meière, letter to Hans Wagner, January 7, 1958. Pühl & Wagner, Heinersdorff Archive, Berlinische Galerie Museum für Moderne Kunst, Berlin, Germany.

Additional Resources

Commission Location

Emblem

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
4421 Lindell Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63108

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