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Saint Mary Basilica



St Mary Basilica was constructed as a cathedral between 1842 and 1886 in the Gothic Revival style. It became a church in 1977 when the Diocese moved to Jackson, Mississippi, but was designated a Minor Basilica in 1998. It contains a beautiful, bright, and airy interior with some beautiful statues, windows, and fittings.

Saint Mary Basilica was until 1979, known as Saint Mary’s Cathedral. The Basilica was dedicated to Mary, under the title Our Lady of Sorrows on December 25, 1843.

Construction started in 1842 and took 40 years to complete.  It was consecrated four years later on September 19, 1886. It was the only church constructed as a cathedral in Mississippi, and on September 17, 1979, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1977 the Diocese moved to Jackson, and St. Mary became a church, but on September 8, 1998, it was designated a Minor Basilica, with the dedication taking place on September 25, 1999.
The Basilica contains the three symbols that indicate that it is a basilica. These are an umbraculum or conopaeum, which is a silk canopy or umbrella with yellow and red stripes, which are the traditional papal colours: The tintinnabulum, or bell, which is mounted on a pole and may be carried in processions: The papal coat of arms, which is installed on the left-hand side outside the main entrance.
The cathedral is built in the Gothic Revival style of architecture and constructed in brick on a partially raised basement. At the rear of the building is a semi-circular recess. 


Spaced around the top of the building are ornamental pinnacles. The central square tower is embedded into the structure and is topped with pinnacles and capped with a spire.

The front façade with its recessed Gothic-arched entrance, leads visitors into the single nave interior with its light blue ceiling, 23kt gold leaf, glazes, multi-colour stencils, tromp l’oeil, and free-hand artistry, all giving a bright airy appearance. 


At the far end are the altars, of which the cathedral has three in Gothic style made of Carrara marble in Italy. The two side altars were installed in 1903. The main central one was installed in 1930. The oak altar of celebration and the pulpit were installed in 1991. 

In front of the main altar is the Baptismal Font to its right is the altar on the right side of the nave.


To the left is the left-side altar.


Along with the altars the communion rail, Episcopal chair, and screens are also made of Carrara marble.

On each side of the main altar are two statues one above the other. On the left at the top is Mother of Sorrow, below her is St Francis of Assisi.  On the right top is St Theresa of Avita, with St Edward below.


A number of other statues are interspaced around the cathedral's interior.

Around the sides of the interior are the stained-glass windows, of which there are sixteen. Twelve were designed by Tyroler Glassmalerie of Innsbruck, Austria, and were installed between 1884 and 1893. The remaining four were designed by Emil Frei of St. Louis, Missouri, and installed in 1961.

Spaced between the windows are the brightly coloured stations of the cross.


Located above the door is the organ. The Original organ was installed in 1882, but this was updated and modified in 1958.


The gardens at the rear of the cathedral contain a fountain, a memorial and a canon taken from the defenders at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba (July 3, 1898). This was the concluding naval engagement of the Spanish-American War, which sealed the U.S. victory over the Spaniards.


In 1999 the cathedral underwent extensive renovation work on the exterior to repair wind damage caused by strong winds that struck Natchez in February 1998 when Several pinnacles on St. Mary's were toppled, and others were weakened. In 2002 the cathedral underwent a complete interior renovation.



              All  Photographs were taken by and are copyright of Ron Gatepain

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