St. James the Greater Roman Catholic Church

Sitting on a dramatic hill on some of the highest ground in Dogtown, St. James the Greater is the Irish parish of St. Louis. Many other churches have held that title over the centuries: St. Patrick, St. Bridget of Erin, St. Leo, St. Lawrence O’Toole, St. Columbkille–but now we are left with St. James the Greater. St. James takes his Greater name due to his large stature (Maximus in Latin) to distinguish him from St. James the Lesser. Due to the prominence of the pilgrimage route to Santiago di Compostela in Spain, where his relics are kept, his symbol are the pilgrim’s three shells.

Rather appropriately, the church is huge, and is a great example of refined English Gothic Revival with cut ashlar stone facing as opposed to the oftentimes common rusticated stone seen in that style in St. Louis.

The giant pointed arch window replaces the rose window of the French Gothic at the end of the nave, and atypically, there is no front portal, but rather the church is entered through side portals at the end of the nave.

While from a distance the church may seem unadorned, on closer inspection the details become more apparent, with close attention to small ornaments around the tympanum.

The archivolts, below, are sculpted in florid detail.

While the lantern above the doorway is cast in copper or bronze.

I first thought the metal piece below was a key but it is in fact a latch to hold the door open.

The crossing spire is one of the tallest and grandest in St. Louis and is perhaps more French than English.

The rectory is attached to the church by an arcade and is built to complement the style of the main building.

Due to the rugged, hilly site, the rectory has an entrance on the basement side along Wade Avenue.

Across Tamm Avenue is the Sisters of Charity Seminary.

And a little ways down the street is the parish school, which has been threatened with closure in the last couple of years. For the time being, it is still open.

Above the front door is a statue of St. James the Greater.

See a similar composition in the cathedral in Gary, Indiana.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Joseph Weisbrod says:

    Thanks Chris! What’s cool, this church was built during the Great depression entirely funded by the parishioners!

  2. Mary Cagle says:

    My grandfather took me to this church when I was l0 yrs. and older. I am now 91 and remember a lot. Hopefully it will not close but…..

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