Updated Map

About a year and a half ago, I started working on an updated map for the site. I wanted it to not only have the basilicas, but any other religious site I had an interest in visiting. I also wanted the icons to be indicative of what type of site they represented.

I did manage to complete those goals, although I was hoping to also make the map filterable. For example, if you were only interested in Jewish sites, you could clear all the others off the map. I never did quite figure out if WordPress (or even Google Maps) supports that, and the project fell by the wayside.

I took some time recently to update the map so I could post it on the site. Although there is no filtering, this map is an improvement over its predecessor. You can see little umbraculums for the basilicas, little Stars of David for Jewish sites, and so on. And, those places I have yet to visit are transparent, to help better separate where I have and haven’t been.

So, click around. See if there’s anything nearby that you might want to visit. And of course, I would love feedback on how to make the map more useful.

What I’ve Been Up To

Oh, you know…just getting married.

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At basilica #3.

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That’s us in November 2013 right after our wedding on the left, and us in September 2011 during our “official” visit on the right.

We even revisited basilica #19 (yes, I am that behind) on our honeymoon – to our surprise, we were just 15 minutes away.


Life is beautiful. He proposed just outside the church after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve in 2012, and we were married on November 16, 2013. Although we still love visiting basilicas, we’re no longer long distance.

While that update has been the highlight (and the most pertinent to this blog!), it’s just been a busy year with numerous big events. But now that I have some research published, achieved dissertator status in my Ph.D. program, and have one conference visit for this spring out of the way, I’m hoping to start getting some more of these basilicas posted, since I’m approaching two years behind on some.

Or, at the very least, I’ve committed to blogging every day for a week, starting today. The guilt (and my now-husband) have been prodding me to get started again, and this challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity. I might taper out towards the end, courtesy of a conference trip to Germany (hello, Cologne Cathedral), but hopefully I’ll start the monumental task of tackling my backlog of posts!

The first and second photos in this post are courtesy of our fantastic wedding photographer.

Candlelit Vatican

A short clip of 1930s video footage showing how St. Peter’s Basilica was illuminated by candles. Stunning:

Basilica #4 – Basilica of St. Francis Xavier (The Old Cathedral)

After a very stressful start to the year (many things due for my doctoral program), my boyfriend and I celebrated on February 18, 2012 with a day trip to Vincennes, Indiana to see the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, also known as the Old Cathedral. This is the first basilica we’ve visited that has a rather anemic Wikipedia page (gasp!), and – in general – not much of an online presence.

The parish community was founded in 1749 around a settlement of French Canadian fur traders and local Indians. The church underwent two previous buildings prior to its current incarnation in 1826. When the new Diocese of Vincennes was created in 1834, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church became the diocese’s new cathedral.

Basilica of St. Francis Xavier

In 1970, the church was raised to the status of basilica due to its important history in Vincennes and the surrounding areas.

Inside of St. Francis Xavier

Umbraculum and Altar Candles

To the left of the altar is a painting of the patron saints of the first four bishops of Vincennes (Saints Simon, Celestine, Stephen, and Maurice) adoring the Madonna and child. To the right is St. Francis Xavier during his ministry.


Along the walls are gorgeous stained glass windows from Columbus, Ohio that were installed in 1908.

Back of St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier Organ

On either side of the front of the church is a staircase leading down to the crypt area.

Crypt Church

Encased in the base of the altar there are the remains of a third century martyr, a 12 year-old Roman boy canonized as St. Aufidia. St. Aufidia’s remains were brought here by the first bishop of the new diocese, the Most Reverend Simon William Gabriel Bruté de Rémur, whose remains are included in the crypt. In fact, the first four bishops of the diocese—Simon Bruté (1834-1839), Celestine de la Hailandière (1839-1847), John Stephen Bazin (1847-1848), and Maurice de St. Palais—are all buried here in the crypt.


Over the years, the parish community here has belonged to six different sovereign groups: the Indians, French, Spanish, British, Vincennes (when conquered by George Rogers Clark), and the United States. The below painting—which can be seen on the ceiling of the crypt—commemorates the different groups the church has served under.

Sovereign Jurisdiction

The front of the church holds three statues above the doorways. From left to right are St. Joan of Arc, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Patrick.

Exterior Statues

Also on the basilica’s grounds are the rectory, an old building from the now-defunct St. Gabriel’s College, a cemetery, and the old Catholic grade school. The library for which the basilica is well known is next door to the church, and was started by Bishop Bruté’s personal collection of over 5,000 books.

Bird's Eye View of the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier Grounds

Just next door to the basilica, along the Wabash River, is the George Rogers Clark Memorial, a United States National Park.

George Rogers Clark Memorial

And here we are!

Us in Front of the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier

Finally, on a side note, we stopped at this wonderful little burger store on our way here. If you’re going to be nearby Moonshine, IL for breakfast or lunch, you have to stop by this town of population 2 to grab one of their renowned burgers! You can see a CBS Sunday Morning Show segment here, or the store’s webpage here, for more information.


Tomorrow (Friday), my boyfriend and I leave for one of our most anticipated trips of the year. We will be leaving from his place at 4 AM, driving to Virginia Beach to visit friends from college for about 36 hours, followed by a week in Northern Virginia visiting my family, and then another two days in Cleveland, visiting his family. Why am I telling you? Well, look at all the basilicas we hope to visit. Amazingly, these almost all fall right along our route:

  • Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, KY (June 8)
  • Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Charleston, WV (June 8)
  • Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, Norfolk, VA (June 10)
  • Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC (June 11-16)
  • Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Baltimore, MD (June 11-16)
  • Basilica and National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Emmitsburg, MD (June 11-16)
  • Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Hanover, PA (June 11-16)

That’s an optimistic list. We’re planning for visiting the ones in bold. Charleston will be challenging, given that we’ll be having such a long drive that day, so that’s a maybe. The last two just depend how our week in Northern Virginia falls out. But if we make them all, we’ll be visiting almost 10% of all basilicas.

Even more exciting is the prospect of vacation! Taking a second job this semester has meant that downtime was hard to come by, but I’m looking forward to finishing up posts for all the basilicas we’ve visited thus far this year (which is seven!). Indeed, my boyfriend said I better start getting those out, or I’ll never catch up! And with all the opportunities we’ve had in 2012, he is quite right.

Random Thoughts Roundup

A thoughtful piece on modern day architecture in the Catholic Church. Although there are many churches which have adopted the minimalist approach that is often criticized by more traditional Catholics, there are also some which are looking to integrate the grandeur of the Church’s architectural history with the clean leans of modernism.

Epic Systems is the local (to Madison) software company that builds healthcare products. When they were researching how to build their new auditorium (it’s still under construction, but will seat 11,000+ when it’s done), they actually flew their designers out to the Salt Lake City (Mormon) Tabernacle for inspiration. If you’re not familiar with Epic, they’re a company that will draw inspiration from anywhere. Their campus is whimsical, with decoration themes ranging from the circus to Indiana Jones to Dungeons and Dragons. You can see pictures of their campus here.

Finally, Father Z had a post earlier this month about an invaluable relic that the Cathedral Shrine in St. Paul, Minnesota recently came in possession of – a piece of the stone from St. Paul’s sarcophagus! And if that wasn’t amazing enough, he has an update at the top of the post about how Catholics will be able to receive the same indulgences by visiting the church as visiting St. Paul’s Outside-the-Walls, a major basilica. Sounds like they have become an affiliated basilica to me…

Darth Vader on Washington National Cathedral

My boyfriend and I were having a spontaneous and rather long Skype conversation last night. It started with Darlene’s suggestions about churches to see in Chicago, followed by my boyfriend’s love of Gothic architecture. I mentioned that he would probably love the Washington National Cathedral (OK, it’s neogothic…and Anglican), and that we should go see it this summer. Of course, I ended up trolling Wikipedia for interesting information on the church’s architecture, as it’s been over 10 years since I last visited. But I happened upon this little gem: the National Cathedral has the helmet of Darth Vader in place of one of its gargoyles on the outside:

Now, as a sworn fanatic of Star Trek who isn’t really impressed with Star Wars, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Either way, I’m pretty sure my field trip here in the fifth grade never mentioned Darth Vader up on the building; I think we all would have been a lot more interested.

It turns out when the National Cathedral was under construction (a laborious process taking from 1907-1990), National Geographic had a contest in 1980 for what four of the small gargoyles should look like. Darth Vader placed third. As Wikipedia says: “The Cathedral boasts what is probably the world’s only sculpture of Darth Vader on a religious building.” Yeah, probably.