Over the years of living in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, I made many visits to, and many paintings and drawings of the Saint Paul Cathedral and the various buildings and landscape surrounding it. For quite a few years, this was a favorite destination for my days spent out of the studio.
While I might not ever recommend building such a facility to house church services today, I sincerely appreciate the way this building helped to direct my thoughts Godward as I spent time around it. And having not grown up with any experience of the Catholic church, this architecture speaks volumes to me. It’s vastness speaks to me of the absolute bigness of our creator. The specialness or distinctiveness of these building’s uses reminds my how unlike anything else God is, his otherliness or holiness. And the rich symbolism at every turn never ceases to catch my attention. And while I’ve had the same experience in other cathedrals, this one was close enough to visit over and over again, almost weekly for a few years.
I spent time drawing the buildings as they looked today, as well as what they might’ve looked like in the landscape they were originally a part of. I made pictures of up-close details as well as landscapes with the buildings as only a small but still significant part.
Most all of the paintings I produced of the cathedral are now in private, and perhaps a couple of public collections. And what I have left are these sketchbook drawings, and a couple of my watercolor prints.
At one point even the Archdiocese asked for some more artwork for a commemorative project of one sort or another, but nothing ever came of it. I wasn’t concerned however. I really didn’t need a special commission to keep painting this historical landmark.
It really is quite amazing to me how the buildings we live and work in, the ones we worship in or drive past or even hardly ever notice because of our familiarity—it’s amazing to me how theses structures add a richness to our lives. We grow to appreciate the shapes and smells, the textures and sounds, and the meeting places they become.
One of the things I’ve loved about these old buildings is that through every cultural trend and bias over the past hundred years, these old buildings have stood out in the midst of the landscape pointing towards our creator. Every time we’ve traveled past, they’ve been silently reminding us that there is one who rules over the entire universe whether or not we’ve wanted that reminder or were paying any attention. And the continue to be architectural sign posts, if you will, pointing to our heavenly Father.
That’s my take anyway, at least for today!