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Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

St. Louis, MO

North dome eastern arch soffit

Melchizedek, Abraham and Isaac, 1945

Commissioned by: George John MaguoloMedium: Byzantine-style glass mosaicFabricated by: Pühl & WagnerInstalled by: Ravenna Mosaics

Hildreth Meière designed nine commissions in the main sanctuary of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis between 1945 and 1961.1 All of her decoration was in Byzantine-style glass mosaic, so that her designs would blend with pre-existing mosaics by other artists from the earlier part of the twentieth century.

North dome with the Twelve Apostles; St. Cyril in pendentive on the top left; St. John Chrysostom in pendentive on top right; and eastern arch soffit with Melchizedek and Abraham and Isaac on far right

North dome with the Twelve Apostles; St. Cyril in pendentive on the top left; St. John Chrysostom in pendentive on top right; and eastern arch soffit with Melchizedek and Abraham and Isaac on far right

Meière’s first commission at the cathedral basilica in 1945 was to decorate the soffit (or underside) of the eastern arch supporting the yet-undecorated north dome with the Sacrifices of Abraham and Isaac and Melchizedek, as prototypes of the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass.2

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

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

As Maurice B. McNamee, S.J. explains in his description of the cathedral basilica’s north dome and sanctuary:

The mosaic decoration of the entire north bay and dome is devoted to the subject of the Eucharist,which is celebrated at the altar below. In this carefully worked out program of Eucharistic symbolism drawn from both the Old and New Testaments, the sanctuary of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis resembles that of the sixth century church of San Vitale in Ravenna. All the iconographic details in the mosaics on the east side of the sanctuary are drawn from the Old Testament; those on the west side are from the New Testament.3
Soffit of eastern arch below north dome

Soffit of eastern arch below north dome

Detail of Abraham and Isaac

Detail of Abraham and Isaac

Detail of Melchizedek

Detail of Melchizedek

Meière returned to the cathedral basilica a decade after she designed the eastern arch soffit to decorate the north dome depicting the Twelve Apostles, two pendentives supporting the dome, and the north wall surrounding the rose window. Following her work at the north end of the cathedral basilica, she designed the south dome, pendentives and arch soffits, and the south wall surrounding the rose window. Meière was completing her final design for the west arch soffit of the south dome at the time of her death in 1961.

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

Maurice B. McNamee, Mosaics of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, 2nd ed.(St. Louis, Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, 2008): 28.

3

McNamee, pp. 27-28.

Additional Resources

Commission Location

Emblem

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

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