Friday, April 20, 2012

Romance in Unusual Places: St. Francis Xavier Cathedral

 The town across the river from where I live, Alexandria, is home of the Diocese of Alexandria. Which means we have a cathedral. St. Francis Xavier Cathedral downtown on Third Street. It's a beautiful brick building built in 1893 with gorgeous stained glass windows. These windows have a blue in them that was lost forever during WW2 when the German factory responsible for it was blown to smithereens.

Since Alexandria's water table is so high, the cathedral itself sits several feet above the ground and is one of the few buildings in the area with a basement. There's a sump pump in the basement that runs around the clock. Also in the basement you can see scorch marks on some of the bricks. The foundation was laid with the burnt remains of the big house at Tyrone Plantation a few miles northwest of town.

During Lent the Knights of Columbus sell fried fish on Fridays. My sister and I go as often as we can. March was very wet and blustery and this scene spoke to my inner romantic.

The building pictured above is on the west side of the cathedral. It was built in the early 1900's and at one point housed the St. Francis Xavier School. There was another building on the site but it's long since been torn down.

The bell tower in the background was added to the church in 1907 and has the most beautiful bells I've ever heard.

The other picture is taken from outside the school building, looking through one of the blown glass windowpanes at an interior staircase.

Most of the building is now used for storage. One section of it has been remodeled into a modern kitchen with a dining area and it is here the fish is sold and eaten by people from all over town. Whether we're Catholic or not. As Father Chad Partain is fond of saying, "During Lent, everyone in Alexandria becomes a good Catholic."

And it's all because of the fish at the cathedral.

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