St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption
One of only thirty-five cathedral basilicas in the US, St. Mary’s is located in Covington, Kentucky, a short 8-minute drive from central Cincinnati. The awe-inspiring site is 180 feet long and 81 feet tall and includes 82 stained glass windows, one of which is among the largest in the world and is the largest stained-glass window in a church. The window stands at an impressive 67-feet and is 24-feet wide. The decadent decoration is best manifested in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, whose tabernacle is gold-plated and includes semi-precious stones. The arched ceilings are indicative of its Gothic design, similar to that of Notre Dame. As long as at least two weeks notice is given, groups of at least ten can schedule docent-guided tours.
Backstory and Context
Opened in 1837, St. Mary’s Church was Covington’s first Roman Catholic Church. The church became a cathedral in 1895 and was designated a minor basilica in 1953. The cathedral’s inner design was based on the Abbey Church of St. Denis in Paris while the outside imitates Notre Dame in Paris. Although the stained glass comes from Munich, local artist Frank Duveneck was responsible for the Blessed Sacrament Chapel’s triptych, which portrays salvation through the ages.
The difference between a cathedral and basilica has to do with historical and cultural importance, rather than necessarily being directly tied into physical aspects of the church. St. Mary’s was designated a minor basilica on July 29, 1953 by Pope Pius IX. There are only four major basilicas in the world, and they are all located in Rome. The decision to expand the church into a cathedral was hatched in 1851 when it became clear that St. Mary’s Church could no longer accommodate the growing Covington population. Construction planning began in 1885 and the cathedral was finished in 1915. The cathedral also hosts regular sacred music concerts featuring local, national, and international musicians. The cathedral is home to a historic organ, known as the Matthias Schwab Organ that dates back to 1859.