Designed by A.F. and Arthur Stauder in 1958, St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church is one of the many Modernist churches the Archdiocese constructed in the boom years after World War II. The front entrance is dominated by a huge mosaic of the saint, designed most likely by Ravenna Mosaic, which was a branch of the Emil Frei & Associates, who are the famed stained glass window company.
As Rob Powers shows at Built St. Louis, those mosaics and stained glass really are the stars of this church, with the building really just the frame for their art.
The mosaic is stunning, and monumental in size, though I’m not sure at what point the doors below the saint were altered.
St. Joan of Arc, of course, emerged during the One Hundred Years’ War, when English kings sought to assert their supposed right to the French crown. Joan of Arc helped relieve the city of Orleans from English attack and scored other French victories before being captured and burned at the stake. Her standard traditionally should have a depiction of the face or name of Christ, but that probably would have been too cluttered in the mosaic, so the fleur-de-lis and a crown will suffice.
Her shield and the sword she predicted would be found at the church of Sainte-Catherine-de-Fierbois are carved into the stone near the front door, along with the names of Archbishop and future Cardinal Ritter and Rev. Rider. Interestingly, Ritter means “rider” or more correctly “knight” in Old German.
The buff colored brick actually works well in the neighborhood around the church, as it is in the part of the city where the housing stock has moved away from the more common red brick further east.
The bell tower also soars above the neighborhood.
The windows are long and narrow, much like in a Gothic church, making the stained glass all the more powerful from the inside.
I can’t help but see similarities to two other Catholic churches I’ve seen in Webster Grove and in Pekin, Illinois.
The rectory was apparently designed at the same time as the church.
The parish school, however, looks like it predates the church.
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Hi Chris, I am working on a book about Emil Frei Studio. You seem to be an expert on their work in St Louis. Could we get together to talk sometime?
I am the author of Movers and Shakers, Scalawags and Suffragettes: Tales form Bellefontaine Cemetery and of St Louis – An Illustrated Timeline.