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Rarely Seen Views, St. Liborius

Perhaps as enjoyable as viewing the interior of the church was the chance to step into the private, intimate spaces behind the scenes of the church.

For example, the angles created by the exterior of the apse as it butted up against the bridge to the rectory, or the steps that descend down into the basement.

The building’s stout walls will last for centuries, but the near future of the church will determine in what condition it will remain in the coming decades.

Below, the stained glass windows still line the hall of the bridge between the church and rectory, one of the most unique elements of this complex.

The rectory itself is a large building, with fascinating courses of glazed brick interspersed with the typical red brick.

The fuse box, no longer hooked up to electricity, is most likely part of the earliest wiring of the church.

A yellowed sign explains the operation of the system, though it is of no use now.

The parish hall, in the cellar, has been cut up into smaller rooms, but some of the original paint remains.

The grotto out back, facing away from the street, has miraculously avoided serious vandalism. This is the second historic church I have visited in North St. Louis in the last couple of months, and every time, I get a sad sense that I am witnessing the passing of an era. In fact, I get much of the same feeling viewing these churches as when I’m visiting ancient Roman ruins in Italy, even though those are obviously much older. What caused the Roman Catholic church to give up on this church? Was it a lack of will, or just a sad, realistic realization that there was no reason to keep the church open? Was it no different than when the Romans abandoned the Coliseum? Was there just simply no money or manpower left to keep it open any longer? Perhaps the most sad realization for me is that if even the beautiful St. Liborius can be abandoned and forgotten, then anywhere can, including the places I cherish.

5 Comments

  1. Chris,Take walk up the street to see the Shrine of St. Joseph. You will be impressed. Built in 1844 and enlarged in 1860, it is restored to it's original glory. It is at 11th and Biddle. Mass is Sunday at 11 am and there is always a tour of the building by very well trained, articulate docents.

  2. The Archdiocese gave up on the church simply because, as the neighborhood changed (before the "land clearance"), there were simply not enough parishioners left to support the parish – and the staffing necessary. This has obviously happened all over STL and not just in the North City; many Southside parishes have closed as well, and not just in "transitional" areas. It occurred all over North County as well.I am surprised that apparently all of the copper guttering has survived – those thieves are quite resourceful and determined. When they steal from active buildings (like the former Corpus Christi church in Jennings), it seems surprising that St. Livorius has survived.

  3. Many people tried to save this church and were devastated when it closed. I have heard the interior was gorgeous, but cannot find historic photos of the interior. Does anyone have any to share? Thank you.

  4. Looking at the photographic images of Saint Liborius before and after closing was a gut wrenching experience for me as the parish played a major role in building the foundations of my spiritual life, through the teaching by the Sisters of Notre Dame, and the beginnings of my life as artist. I was christened, made my first communion, and confirmed in this church. My grand parents who emigrated from Poland, then to Germany, and then to St. Louis chose this city because of the large community of Polish and German people, and quickly became members of St. Liborius, as did all the rest of my family.
    The astonishing beauty of the interior with its many works of art, and exterior refinement were the inspiration for my decision to become an artist. As a child I would wander about the streets near the church, often getting lost, but the glorious church spire served as a beacon for me in order to find my way back to my home which was a few blocks away from the church. In the late 1940’s my parents move to Jennings, and the family became members of Corpus Christi parish, but, I missed St. Liborius and without my parent’s knowledge, I would take the bus into the city and attend Masses at St. Liborius. After my time in the United States Navy I returned to St. Louis, and with my brother went to visit our beloved church, only to find that the parish no longer existed, and being guided through the church by the one remaining priest living there, we were shocked to see that the church had begun to fall apart. I am very disheartened to know that the church may be turned into a community center. The building was intended for one thing, to be a church, not something else, I see this intention as immoral for all that St. Liborius, and the Catholic faith stands for. I would rather see the church demolished rather than turned into something it was never intended to be. A great work of art deserves better than this. The great French artist, Henri Matisse late in his career piled all of his paintings, and burned them, rather than see his creations fall into dubious hands and future. Does St. Liborius deserve less than this?

    I have come full circle, for the past thirty years I have been teaching art at Trinity University Washington DC, a university founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in the year of 1880. The Sisters of Notre Dame were my inspiration as a child at Saint Liborius, and they still are.

    Eugene D. Markowski

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