Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral
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From Collingwood Boulevard, Islington Street, or Parkwood Avenue, one catches the beauty of the seam-faced Massachusetts granite and Indiana limestone exterior of Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral. A massive 285 feet long by 215 feet wide, the towering building is a merry sight of vane-colored stone in its thick walls and pinnacled buttresses, topped with a tile roof of bold oranges, purple-blues, greens, and more.
The facade brings together all manner of stonework leading the eye to the innermost portion of its arched recesses where stands the title statue of Our Lady en-throned beneath a crest-like canopy. Carved of a single block of Indiana limestone, the over six-feet-tall sculpture is surmounted by a crown of roses with an almost-hidden halo of mosaic gold.
The same facade is a study of artistic detail with its statuary, delicate stone traceries, shields, arches, spires, and magnificent twin towers bearing their namesakes Peter and Paul respectively. Above the porch is the stonework of the enormous rose window, above that the diocesan coat of arms, and the surmounting cross. The Cathedral bells, housed in both towers were cast at Croyden in England and are a poignant presence in the Old West End, notifying all of the joy and grief of God's people.
There are two side front entrances which possess their own array of statuary, symbolism, and proud turrets. Saints and Church figures, the South.
A unique and intricately carved frieze extends along both outside walls and around the apse of the Cathedral. Between the frieze and the cornice is a fifty-paneled bas-relief history of the Church depicting events from ancient times to the present day in Toledo. Frank Aretz was the sculptor and stone carver of statuary, relief, and tracery, both inside and outside (with the exception of statues in the sanctuary chapels).
The enormous front doors of the Cathedral are noteworthy. Composed of paneled cypress with stained glass apertures and bronze rosettes, the everyday hinged doors can be completely swept away when the full doors (of which they are a part) slide into the Cathedral walls upon state occasions, exposing the stone archway into the vesti-bule or narthex.
Thus it is with a feeling of awe that we examine the parts of the whole of the Cathedral, never forgetting that its beauty is dedicated to God and his mother.
It seems perfectly natural to turn and face the East wall from which we have just entered. Above the carved oak balcony with its vines and roses, one faces the twenty-eight-foot jeweled wheel of "The children's rose window," named for the diocesan child donors of pennies which together amounted to $25,000. Composed of Norman slab glass, the morning sun floods to brilliance the colors depicting episodes of Mary's life.
In the arch above the rose window is Felix Lieftuchter's fresco of Creatio Mundi, the opening chapter of the story in Genesis continued across the nave ceiling, sanctuary, and apse. Beneath the rose window, surrounded by symbols of Christ and Mary, is an icon-like rendering of the Death of Mary, underneath which are seven stained glass windows of holy women who preceded and followed Mary.
Lieftuchter's monumental painting continues across the length of the barrel-vaulted ceiling in seven bays, formed by the extension of the piers rising from the Cathedral floor. Prophets and sybils inhabit the Spanish ceiling, studded and highlighted with touches of gold, now made visible with skillfully designed up-lighting.
Above the sanctuary and altar, the sacrifice of Jesus completes the Old Law and establishes the New Law with Mary, Mother of Sorrows, close by. The fifteenth mystery of the Rosary-the crowning of Mary, Queen of Heaven, by the Trinity (while surrounded by the Church Triumphant and Suffering) is the central motif of the sanctuary dome, an awe-inspiring, compelling finale of salvation history.
The Keim process used in these frescoes employs a lasting mineral paint which neither evaporates nor disturbs acoustics. The nave ceiling painting is actually executed on a perforated aluminum.
A return to the floor some eighty-three feet below will reveal the Wisconsin oak pews with carved centers in their rectangular ends and an eight-foot-wide marble middle aisle. The principal wall material is softly-tinted Jeanne d'Arc stone, quarried at her birthplace, put in ships as ballast, and cut in the United States as needed.
The roundish piers of solid masonry are faced with the same warm French limestone and are ten by six feet, of proper proportion to sustain the weight of the concrete vault while arching into strong bands of painted ornamentation across the ceiling.
Above the archway, twenty-eight carved stone shields bearing the names of famous Marian shrines of the world line the walls. Above them, and running the length of the nave and sanctuary, is the triforium gallery, common in European cathedrals, exhibiting a wealth of stone tracery. Higher yet are the great clerestory, stained glass windows, above which runs a delicately carved stone frieze marking the end of the wall and the beginning of the vault.
The fourteen triple windows, eight-feet-wide and twenty-six-feet high, deserve more mention. In the Gothic tradition, they exhibit exquisite tracery and superb Norman slab class. Some have called them living tapestries of color changing momentarily with the movement of sunlight. The subjects of each triple window are heroic figures and scenes from all walks and circumstances of life, crafted under artist Angelo Pitassi in his Pittsburg studios.
The sanctuary is a sacred place with sacred furnishings, all rich in symbolism and use. The General Instruction to the Roman Missal states, "It is of the greatest importance that the celebration of the Mass, the Lord's Supper, be so arranged that the ministers and the faithful may take their own proper part in it and thus gain its fruits more fully."
As lovely as Rosary Cathedral was on its day of dedication in 1940, it did not, and could not with a temporary and portable altar, fulfill this basic need of worship. Thus, as the mother church of the diocese, and leader in renewal, our carved altar of Florido marble, was brought forward to the people, made slightly less rectangular, now displaying its shadowy carving on all sides in its free-standing position. Marble flooring was relocated and matched in this movement to a slightly higher elevation where the Eucharistic sacrifice can truly be perceived as "the source and summit of the whole of the Church's worship."
Another sign of renewal in the sanctuary is the modification of the elaborately arrayed bishop's throne to a simpler symbol of the bishop's pastoral office, a handsome chair (fashioned by Herman Brothers) and placed in the center of the sanctuary as a permanent sign of the presence of one who is sent to call, to gather, and to keep in unity. Close to the altar, the bishop presides in charity over the assembly surrounding the altar of Christ.
The eye cannot help but be drawn to the strong and compelling carved crucifix suspended from the ceiling above the altar of sacrifice. Composed of European walnut with a corpus of bleached Black Forest oak by carver August Schmidt, the crucifix is suspended in a kind of glory above the living memorial celebrated beneath it.
Moving directly back, under the marble-pillared, ornamental-oak baldacchine canopy, stands the great baptismal font. In close relationship to the altar of sacrifice before it, the Holy Oils behind it, the font joins them in a kind of unity of the great sacraments of initiations Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation.
Composed of daintily-tinted Florido marble, and carved into an octagonal and pillared form reminiscent of a Spanish well, it is magnificently topped with a hand-forged aluminum hood, bearing an image of the Baptist. A series of weights and pulleys enables this one hundred-thirty pound cover to be lifted with one hand. Natale Rossi created this piece, handsome as worked silver, embossed with symbols, related to the great sacrament celebrated in the flowing water beneath it.
Mention has already been made of the Sacred Oils dis-played on the apse wall. One of the strongest and most beautiful liturgical statements in the renovation is the bringing forth for public veneration of these urns of sacred oil - chrism, oil of catechumens, and oil of the sick. They rest amid the carvings of the former throne of the bishop, illuminated and visible to all. Herman Brothers are re-sponsible for this redesigning of the Holy Oil Repository.
Christ's presence in the proclamation of the Word is highlighted by the carved white oak (from the Black Forest of Germany) pulpit with its profusion of rosettes, angels, and lacy patterns. Carved by August Schmidt of Cologne, the pulpit and its canopy with sculptures of four Latin doctors - Gregory, Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose along with St. John the Evangelist - has been brought forward and adjusted in height to be in better proportion to the new depth of the nave and the renewed sanctuary.
Inside the sanctuary, in addition to the cornerstone, is a stone cut from the thirteenth century Cathedral of Toledo, Spain, engraved in Spain and sent to Toledo as a gesture of friendship.
The great Skinner organ with some fifty-five hundred organ pipes and seventy-eight ranks has undergone refurbishing to restore and preserve its priceless quality. The console of the organ is housed in the sanctuary and can be moved to suit the occasion.
Along the arc of the apse wall are elaborately carved and illuminated choir stalls of pin-grained Michigan oak. On close inspection you will find six small canopied canons in positions of singing, praying, meditating, preaching, etc. as signs of those clerics of old whose duties were to chant and recite the Divine Office.
The renovation has added over a hundred scarlet up-holstered priedieus which are interlocking, but not stationary. Ordinarily they surround the altar area, creating an intimacy.
Along the apse wall are New Testament writers Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James, and Jude. These eight carved and gold-illumined statues are each surmounted by a crowning spire of intricately carved wood. Spanish hanging lamps spread soft light along the apse marble. We have now traveled 235 feet from vestibule to apse wall.
As most cathedrals, Rosary Cathedral has a number of special chapels - sanctuary chapels dedicated to Mary and to Joseph, a Eucharistic chapel for reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, and another designated the Bishop's Chapel or sacristy.
Additional shrine altars in the side aisles are beautifully carved of marble and wood, and dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Theresa of Lisieux. Near the Blessed Virgin Mary Chapel is a statue of the Sacred Heart resting under a mural of saints dedicated to Him.
The white Trani marble statues of Mary, Queen of Peace, holding the Infant Christ and of Joseph with the Boy Christ the King, located in the sanctuary chapels are the work of the sculptor Vanucci. In the dome above, and on the facing of, each of those altars are Venetian mosaics wrought in the manner of twelfth century Catalonian frescoes, depicting youthful saints, the Nativity, and the Lamb on the Book of Seven Seals, the work of Maumejean.
Especially noteworthy are the tabernacles, candlesticks, and base of vitreous (Limoges) enamel and bronze known as cloisonne, i.e. glass melted on metal. Designed by the architect William R. Perry, they were two years in the making, the tabernacles being the only pieces of their size in the world.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel is located in the former Baptistery. According to the General instruction to the Roman Missal, "It is highly recommended that the Holy Eucharist be reserved in a chapel suitable for private adoration and prayer." Our cathedral chose the Baptistery as a Eucharistic chapel, bringing the upper portion of the bronze and silver tabernacle to rest on an Italian onyx plinth in the octagonal-shaped room. On the west wall is a replica of El Greco's Descent of the Holy Ghost. The panelled ceiling is decorated with likenesses of the Four Evangelists. A place for quiet adoration, the chapel is located behind wrought aluminum and bronze gates with Marian roses and fleur-de-lys abounding in this master-piece, designed by architect Perry and executed by Wendell August.
The sacristy or Bishop's Chapel is found beyond the arched passageway leading from the left side of the sanctuary. Its floor is of marble and its ceiling, a panelled oak with Spanish decorative painting.
Carved oak vestment cases line three walls. On the fourth wall we find the Regina Angelorum reredos, carved by August Schmidt, and decorated in the manner of the Italian and Spanish masters by Carl Fuchs. The technique involves repeated polychroming and gilting with burnished gold. Accompanying Mary, Queen of Angels, are other sacred figures including six Marian saints.
There are twelve stained glass windows in this chapel depicting biblical and saintly figures.
We come now to the description of twelve-foot-wide side aisles which run from the vestibule to sanctuary chapels. Twenty-four feet above in dome-like ceilings formed by piers and arches are frescoes of fourteen mysteries of the Rosary and their old testament counterparts, executed by artist John Henry de Rosen.
Carved oak confessionals are found recessed in both aisles. Above them and the shrines of the side aisles are smaller Pitassi stained glass windows of saints representing countries around the world. Two confessionals on the right side of the church were refashioned into pleasant and softly lit reconciliation rooms which offer the penitent the opportunity of anonymous or face-to-face celebration of the sacrament.
Above the two side entrances are murals of battles whose victorious outcomes were attributed to the ceaseless and devout recitation of the Rosary. Over the North door is the Battle of Lepanto, while the South entrance displays the Battle of Temesvar.
Traditionally so much a part of every church are the stations of the cross. Rosary Cathedral's are the work of artist August Schmidt who carved the delicate depictions of the Via Dolorosa, surmounted and framed by lacy wood carvings which is gilted and in perfect harmony with other Cathedral carvings.
The motifs of thorn and passion flower are significant and predominant in these out-standing carvings. And at this point we stop and leave you to savor your surroundings.
A wealth of detail remains for your inspection. Long-time parishioners repeatedly report new discoveries. From its massive basement, servers' sacristy, choir practice room, to its lofty balcony, there are delightful secrets which this cathedral offers to those who return again and again.
We welcome you to that experience which we trace to the grace of God working in men like Bishops Joseph Schrembs, Samuel Stritch, and Karl Alter, who along with Msgr. Anthony J. Dean whose pastorate spanned their shepherding, were bold and courageous. They trusted outstanding architect William Richard Perry and dozens of artists and artisans who obviously felt their tasks to be ones of excellence. The people of Toledo and this diocese responded with great generosity. Today we enjoy the fruits of their vision and labors.
"Rosary Cathedral is not only a treasure house of art. It is a school of history and religion as well. Upon a massive background of bold and telling grandeur there is laid a wealth of pictorial and symbolic detail, the full beauty and meaning of which cannot be won at a glance or in one visit."
Msgr. Anthony J. Dean
Introduction to "The Cathedral of the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary"
By Matthew Clancy
The people of Rosary Cathedral Parish are happy to have you visit our beautiful Cathedral.
Are you interested in learning more about our Catholic tradition or want to know how to become a member of our parish family?
Please contact the rectory at 419-244-9575.
If you are searching for a spiritual home, we are happy to open ours to you.
Written and edited from Cathedral resources by Barbara Carter Daley