Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cathedral of the Plains

The Basilica of St. Fidelis
"The Cathedral of the Plains"
Victoria, Kansas
August 2015
One of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting this gorgeous church. It towers above the small town (population 1,214 in the 2010 census) and has an amazing history. It is 220 feet long, 110 feet wide at the transepts, and 75 feet wide at the nave. The ceiling is 44 feet above the ground and the towers rise 141 feet. The seating capacity of 1,100 made it, at the time of its dedication, the largest church west of the Mississippi.

Construction of the Cathedral began in 1908 and was completed in 1911. The exterior is constructed of native limestone, quarried seven miles south of Victoria. Besides collectively contributing $132,000 for the building, each parishioner was required to haul 6 wagonloads of stone, so large families easily hauled 70 to 80 loads of stone to meet their obligation. Each stone weighed 50 to 100 pounds and engineers estimate that the people hauled and dressed more than 125,000 cubic feet of rock. The stones were placed by hand, assisted only by block and tackle.

the altar viewed from the nave
The fourteen granite pillars in the nave came from Vermont. When they first arrived, however, they were unloaded by the railroad 3/4 mile from the construction site. After an attempt to transport the pillars using a strong farm wagon failed, a threshing machine was prepared with beams. It took eight horses, to pull the five-ton to seven-ton pillars and 40 men to lift them.

In addition to the native limestone and the granite pillars from Vermont, a great quantity of Bedford stone was imported from Indiana for the doorways and the bases and capitals of the pillars.

rose window above the front door, facing west
The stained glass in this church is breath-taking. I photographed a few favorites, but you can click on the link photos of all of the windows. The rose window at the end of the church was amazing.

rose window above the west entrance
In 2013, the church contracted with Widenborg Stained Glass Restoration to remove the old storm covering on the stained glass windows and refurbish the windows and wood frames. Quarter-inch clear tempered glass was installed as a new storm covering. This restoration alone cost $155,000.

(Historical information included in this post was taken from the brochure available at the church. The church website is www.stfidelischurch.com)

If you find yourself on Interstate 70 in western Kansas, please take the time to stop in Victoria to see this gorgeous church.

11 comments:

  1. The stained glass is so pretty. And I thought the story of how the building was constructed was interesting. It's hard to imagine something like that today, because of all the modern equipment we now have.

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  2. When I visited this church, it wasn't open, so I am glad to see the interior. Did you notice the headstones in the cemetery? Such ornate crosses!

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  3. Thanks for sharing in the history of this church, very interesting.

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  4. Oh my gosh. That's a wonderful historic post. My back hurts thinking of those families and doing their share and more of the stone work

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  5. Oh wow...a beautiful cathedral !!!!

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  6. How beautiful, especially the stained glass and the pillars. My home town church in Minnesota had a semi-circular sanctuary with a rose window that glowed with sunlight during morning services. You just don't see that type of stained glass in the modern churches and it's probably because they can't afford it. We can only imagine the huge efforts it took from the parishoners to build this. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. Very beautiful, Nancy. I really support you going on more vacations and getaways so we can live vicariously through you. :)

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  8. Wow, what a beautiful church and that stained glass is gorgeous!!

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  9. Beautiful! I'll bet you can see it from a distance, too?

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  10. I love church architecture, especially the stained glass. If ever you come this way, you could tour nothing else and have a very full visit.

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  11. What a lovely church! I am always captivated by churches like that -- the architecture is incredible.

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