Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception - Mobile, Alabama

The parish of Mobile was established in 1703, just one year after Mobile was founded by the French as the capital of Louisiana. Mobile was originally 12 miles up the Mobile River, but moved to its present location, just off Mobile Bay, in 1712. The original church was known as Notre Dame (Our Lady), but renamed Immaculate Conception in 1781 during the Spanish occupation of Mobile. Immaculate Conception refers to the dogma that Mary was conceived without original sin. Construction of the present building was begun in 1835 and completed 15 years later in 1850. The portico, with eight Doric columns, was added in the 1870s. The two bell towers were added sometime between 1884 and 1890 (I see conflicting dates). 
Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception from Cathedral Park across the street.
A different angle provides more of the park and some of the beautiful trees.
This beautiful old tree in front really reminds me of the south.

The old and the new: the bell towers and RSA Battle House Tower in the background: the tallest building in Mobile.
The red and gold on the outside is brought inside. Looking toward the main altar.
The main altar.
Top of the altar hood looking into a dome.
From the altar end looking back toward the front door. The organ is up above the entrance.
Detail of ceiling rectangles.
Close-up of the organ: fun mural in lime green above.
A side aisle.
Detail from one rectangle in the side aisle: each represents a North American Saint.
Another North American Saint.
I love this. I'm not sure what it is, but it reminds me of the back end of a reindeer.

A coat of arms in the marble floor tiles. The coat of arms of the cathedral is part of the left side of the shield. The three roses on the stem was the family coat of arms for the founder of Mobile. At the base of the stem is a half-moon symbolizing Mary in whose honor the cathedral is named. The moon symbolizes Mary as it shines brightly but is not the light - it reflects the light of the sun. She reflects the light of her Son to us.
Another floor tile coat of arms, also including the cathedral coat of arms in the top left quadrant of the shield. These various coats of arms are from prior bishops.
The stained glass windows, created by Franz Mayer and Co. of Munich, were installed beginning in 1890 and the last was installed in 1910. They all depict events involving Mary in the life of her son Jesus. 
Jesus as a youth in the temple.
The nativity.
The Visitation: Mary visits Elizabeth
The Annunciation: Angel Gabriel comes to Mary.
Mary's presentation in the temple.
In 1964 a crypt chapel was added for deceased bishops. It is accessed by winding stairs on the south side aisle at the third pew from the altar. All prior bishops are buried there but two, one of which became Archbishop of St. Louis and is buried there and the other is buried beneath the portico.  
Stairway down to the crypt chapel.
A view into the crypt chapel (through a locked gate).
Bust of Christ in the hall outside the crypt chapel.
A diocese is a group of parishes. An archdiocese is a diocese among a group of dioceses that is considered most prominent because of size or historical significance. In the 1820s the Diocese of Louisiana and the Floridas was divided into the dioceses of Mobile, New Orleans and St. Louis. The Diocese of Mobile contained all parishes in what are now Alabama and Florida. The Diocese of Mobile was raised to an archdiocese in 1980 and encompasses all parishes in the 28 counties of the southern half of Alabama. 

The cathedral was designated a minor basilica in 1962 by Pope John XXIII and is now one of 67 in the United States (there are four major basilicas in the world - all in Rome). Minor basilica is a designation of precedence above other churches and special standing to the Pope. To signify this special standing, it is entitled to it own coat of arms and to display the tintinnabulum, a bell, and ombrellino, an ornate umbrella, carried in processions inside the basilica. They are symbolic of items used by the Pope in processions in Rome: the bell used to alert the people of the approach of the Pope and the umbrella used to protect the Pope from inclement weather. 
The tintinnabulum or bell.
The ombrellino or umbrella
I believe this is a coat of arms representing a minor basilica, including the ombrellino on top. This coat of arms is also on the ombrellino itself.


  1. Very interesting. Another thing about a basilica is that it becomes a regional headquarter for the pope if he is in that area.

  2. I really like the symbolism in these old churches. The red and gold is beautiful!

  3. Mobile had a New Orleans feel to it for me, and I think this church was part of that. I loved the almost monochromatic interior, broken up by lines of gold and the bright colors of the windows.