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Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

St. Louis, MO

South dome arch soffits

History of the Catholic Church in St. Louis, completed posthumously 1962

Commissioned by: George John MaguoloArtistic Collaborator: Nina Wheeler BlakeMedium: Byzantine-style glass mosaicFabricated by: Pühl & WagnerInstalled by: Ravenna Mosaics

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

South dome, pendentives, and arches soffits

South dome, pendentives, and arches soffits

Meière’s final commissions were at the south end of the nave, where she designed the south dome with the Great Seal of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, four pendentives supporting the south dome with Saints who Spread Catholicism in America, and the four corresponding arch soffits with the History of the Catholic Church in St. Louis, 1960-61 (completed posthumously, 1962).

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

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

Having designed the pendentives, Meière turned her attention to the four arch soffits on which she depicted narratives relating to the History of the Catholic Church in Saint Louis. These include the Educational Apostolate in St. Louis (west arch soffit), St. Vincent de Paul and His Followers (north arch soffit), the Social Apostolate in St. Louis (east arch soffit), and the History of Spiritual Growth in St. Louis (south arch soffit).2 Like the pendentives, all of the arch soffits share the vibrant gold ground of Byzantine-style glass mosaic.

Meière’s preferred method of working was to create a three-dimensional model of an entire project, the individual sections of which were to be completed over a period of time, often as funds became available. She was paid as each segment of the model was fabricated and installed to the satisfaction of the client. The arch soffit depicting St. Vincent de Paul and His Followers was completed prior to the end of November, 1960, at which time she was working on the one-inch color sketch for the Social Apostolate in St. Louis (east arch soffit).3 The mosaic contract for the “Historical Arch” (south arch soffit), also dating to November 1960, specified that the fabrication was to be executed at Ravenna Mosaics in St. Louis, rather than at Pühl & Wagner in Berlin.4

Educational Apostolate in St. Louis

Educational Apostolate in St. Louis

St. Vincent de Paul and Followers

St. Vincent de Paul and Followers

Social Apostolate

Social Apostolate

History of Spiritual Growth in St. Louis

History of Spiritual Growth in St. Louis

Meière was working on the last of her sketches for the west arch soffit depicting the Educational Apostolate in St. Louis when she became ill and died in 1961. The final two groups of figures and a building were completed by her assistant Nina Wheeler Blake. The installation of the four arch soffits was completed posthumously, as was the installation of Meière’s design for the south wall surrounding the rose window.5

Meière created designs for the cathedral basilica for almost two decades, starting in 1945. Writing in 1956, Meière acknowledged, “It is perfectly possible that I will not live long enough to see all the areas completed...”6 Her intuition was correct. Meière did not live to see the beauty of all of her mosaic designs in place throughout the nave.

1

For a full discussion, see Catherine Coleman Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière (New York: Andrea Monfried Editions, 2014): 118-31.

2

Macnamee, 12-13.

3

Hildreth Meière, letter to Arno Heuduck, November 29, 1960, Saint Louis University Archives, DOC REC 50 (Ravenna Mosaic Company Records).

4

Contract between the Ravenna Mosaic Company and the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, November 9, 1960, SLU Archives.

5

Rt. Rev. Thomas F. Durkin, letter to Mrs. Hastings [Nina Wheeler] Blake (Meière’s assistant), June 2, 1961, Archives of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, courtesy of Nicole A. Heerlein, Communications Specialist, Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

6

Hildreth Meière, letter to Paul Heuduck, July 31, 1956, St. Louis University Archives. DOC REC 50 (Ravenna Mosaic Company Records).

Additional Resources

Commission Location

Emblem

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

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