St. Louis, Missouri
Working with His Excellency, Archbishop Burke, the rector of the Cathedral Monsignor Pins and with the able assistance of Monsignor Breier and Fr. Keller we examined the great variety of shrines and side chapels within the Cathedral. In studying this great work of architecture we were in awe of the great variety of marbles, mosaics, symbols, and architectural elements that find their place within. The focus of the new shrine of the Sacred Heart is a mosaic produced by the esteemed Mosaic Studio located at the Vatican. The mosaic is based upon an original oil painting, presumably by a Spanish artist in the Nineteenth century, owned by the Archdiocese.
The design of the shrine is free standing with a pediment to give it verticality and prominence within the colonnaded apse. A series of architectural elements act as frames that set apart and visually enlarge the three by four foot image. An arch of white carrara marble surrounds the mosaic with an image above of the crown of thorns, three nails, and cloth to allude to Christ’s suffering for humanity. The columns are like sentinels and are constructed out of diaspro marble from Sicily, a fragile and rare marble beloved by artists such as Bernini. The column capitals are composite and are inspired by the capitals at the Cathedral high altar with a cross, fleur de lis and lamb of God as part of their design.
Under the richly carved pediment, which stands twelve and a half feet above the floor, there are three circles or tondi made out of volcano red and Pakistan dark onyx with gold mosaic bands. Above the pediment are two urns (inspired by the ceiling mosaics) with flames of marble symbolizing the burning love of Christ for his children. At the apex of the shrine is a bronze and azul image of the monogram of the Holy Name or IHS surrounded by gold rays. The marble walls of the shrine are rosa portogallo with a slightly darker variant under the altar. The altar has panels of verde isorie and nuovo brocatello surrounded by bands of red mosaic and bianco carrara frames. The aisle side of the shrine has a simplified marble banding with an inlaid coat of arms of Archbishop Burke as the patron of the shrine.
The botticino classico floor matches other shrine pavements in the Cathedral and has a geometric pattern that frames the altar using statuario, portoro, rouge du roi, and giallo siena marbles. The central circle is a Star of David, remembering the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for which Christ is the completion and referring to Our Lady who is the synagogue, because she bore the Word within her. The curved altarrail of arabescato violetto creates a threshold to the shrine and provides a place to kneel and pray. The bronze doors feature bas-reliefs of a pelican feeding her young with blood from her breast, symbolic of Christ’s Eucharistic sacrifice. They complement the peacocks, symbols of immortality, at the Cathedral sanctuary.
In total, approximately thirty different marbles and onyxes, pieces that weigh up to six hundred pounds, were employed in the design to reflect the rich variety of marbles found in the Cathedral. The scagliola columns, black marble bases and warm natural colors of the transept walls, Stations of the Cross and confessionals surround the Sacred Heart Shrine. The marble fabrication and carving and the bronze casting was supervised by Roberto Pagliari in Carrara and Pietrasanta Italy. The marble, which has a concrete substructure, was erected by Chad Meyer of Stone Renaissance in St. Louis.