Sunday, November 24, 2013

Capitol of West Virginia at Charleston

When we visited the capitol building in Charleston, West Virginia recently I was struck by how much it reminded me of a religious monument, and in particular, a cathedral: the huge, beautiful, awe inspiring dome across the street from the Kanawha River was not so much different from St. Peters down the road from the Tiber. It was a Sunday, and inside, only a few people were milling about. Its cavernous spaces were filled mostly with silence, but what little noise there was was accompanied by echoes down vast, empty halls. Marble floors, walls, pillars. Statues to the political and war saints. Ornamented ceilings. A sense of reverence. It is as grand and awesome and beautiful, or more so, than most of the religious buildings we've seen around the world. 
Front of the capitol building in Charleston, West Virginia.
Father Abraham, who presided over the creation of the state of West Virginia, watches over his progeny.
The back of the West Virginia capitol building mirrors the front, but a replica of the Liberty Bell replaces the statue of Lincoln. 
What was the cost of building this humongous, richly ornamented edifice and what impact did it have on the poor West Virginia coal miners and hill people? Who do the West Virginia politicians really represent as they spend their days in these beautiful halls? Of course, what of the poor of the Middle Ages, or of our day, and the same questions can and should be asked of the religious leaders as they go about the beautiful structures they inhabit. 
View inside the dome. 
A circular hole in the floors allows a view of both upper and lower halls.
Saint Stonewall Jackson
Ornamental ceiling.
Alabaster lamp.
Pillars, lamps, ornamental ceiling, chandelier.
Arches, domes, circular holes in floors/ceilings.
I understand that the basilicas of the Catholic church were inherited from their Roman fore bearers. When Constantine helped the transition of power from the gods of the Romans to the God of the Christians, he allowed the Christians to take over the Roman temples and government buildings. The structures of the church, such as dioceses, or wards, were often based on political structures. I guess, after all, governments now are fulfilling many of the functions that churches used to provide. Governments are our secular religion. Sometimes, there does not seem to be much difference. 


  1. Wow....that's a stunningly beautiful building. I agree--it makes you wonder how government can justify the cost!

  2. This was such a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed that unique statue of Lincoln out front, but the interior of this building was a stunner. Gorgeous.