The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

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Just off the plaza is the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

Perhaps my education is lacking, it’s always a good bet that I missed a memo somewhere along the line, but I’m really not sure you need both basilica and cathedral in the same building name. The basilica title establishes the church as particularly important – a title bestowed upon the building (and in someways the perish) by Benedict XVI, before that it had the no less august title of cathedral.

But now it has both in the name.

Well it’s their church… Cathedral… Cathedral Basilica…

Either way, it’s a striking bit of architecture. The outside looks exactly as it should. It’s a southwest style cathedral. It looks like they got the stone and mortar somewhere near by, although I’m not sure where the lumber or the stone actually comes from. Despite having French architects and Italian stone masons – they still seem to keep the southwestern spirit.

The entrance is somewhat cheesy, but it keeps with the spirit of honesty:


While I’m not sure any church should be a den of retail madness, profit can really help pay for the prophetic work done anywhere. The gifts shop kept to spiritual formation books and pictures of the chapel alongside rosaries and gifts for kids. All and all, a lot better than a Mardels – I don’t remember seeing any “hipster” stylized “cool” christianity. The book selection was much smaller and more targeted as well.

The doors contained beautiful etchings of what appeared to be the story of the founding of the church with little nods to different saints, particularly someone who appears to be St. Francis.


Inside was ornate and that’s where the southwest feel just died.

Which is quite a loss.

It is still beautiful, but there is something missing when the inside and the outside aren’t quite matched up. Perhaps, the inside reflects the European heritage more than the southwest locale. Either way, I was a little disappointed.


The inside was still achingly pretty. It was a place that I could imagine worshiping, and I wish I was there to hear and see a service in the place. I love the interplay of light and wood grains on the floor drawing the eye to the table, the sacrament.

The paintings and icons were skillfully arranged and painted, and off in the wings there is a collection of relics from all across history. Pieces of wood, stone, cloth or whatever else encased, enshrined, and certified as genuine pieces of history. I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to pieces like this that are hundreds or thousands of years old, but not here and not in this space.

Something came over me while I was looking at these pieces, part of me felt awed to be in the presence of pieces that were touched, used, or around people who gave their lives in the service of the faith. I’ve read works by the servants, I’ve read works about those who were too busy serving to write – and just like going to a book signing of a particularly impressive artist or getting an autographed copy of a book, this felt special.


This cross from St. Francis, a man who renounced everything and changed the church, left me feeling in awe and just really glad I came.



About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
This entry was posted in Church, Practices of Faith, Theology and Philosophy, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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