Thursday, December 17, 2015

St. Mary's Catholic Church - Lincoln, NB

As part of a four state (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas) whirlwind tour following Judy's AP test scoring in Kansas City, we had a brief layover in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our first stop was the Nebraska Capitol Building. My first impression was Ghostbusters Building. It has a massive three-story square base and an imposing 12 story tower. Impressive, but in an ugly sort of way. 
Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln.
As we pulled up in front of the capitol to park we noticed a church, just across the street, that stood out. It was white with two black witch-hat steeples We decided to check it out first.
St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lincoln.
St. Mary's Catholic Church does not have much of an on-line presence, no history is given. But it has a peaceful, welcoming presence. The door was unlocked and we were able to walk in, walk around and enjoy it. I don't remember if anyone was inside in their own private contemplation, often someone is. But it was ripe for that. 

It was not as ornate and fancy as many Catholic churches, it was mostly a simple white interior with some pink behind the altar. Some stained glass, of course.

Mary being presented to the High Priest by Anna and Joachim.
I loved the Stations of the Cross, in fact I used the stations from this church as part of my post on that topic. Having visited Israel recently, walked the Via Dolorosa and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Stations of the Cross had more significance for me. I now look for them when we visit Catholic churches.  
My favorite of the stations. I love the draped cross. 
We walked back across the street to the capitol and its massive base. Some buffalo reliefs flank some stairs, reminders of a past that have almost been obliterated in Nebraska. The best I can tell, buffalo can now only be found in small numbers in some state parks. 
St. Mary's from a different perspective.
Buffalo relief on the capitol grounds. 

A relief of pioneers with oxen pulling wagons.
The west entrance was not open, so we walked around to the south entrance where we found a statue of Abraham Lincoln. It dawned on me for the first time that Lincoln must be named after Abraham Lincoln. The capitol of Nebraska Territory, established in 1854, was Omaha. But most of the population lived south of the Platte River and was considering annexation to Kansas. So the territorial legislature voted to move the capitol to the village of Lancaster, in Lancaster County, as a means of keeping the area in Nebraska Territory. An Omaha senator interested in keeping Omaha as the capitol moved to have Lancaster renamed Lincoln after the recently assassinated president. Many people in the Lancaster area had been sympathetic to the Confederate cause and he thought his motion might keep the local people from voting for the move. The tactic failed, Lancaster was renamed Lincoln and Lincoln got the capitol.  
A statue of Abraham Lincoln appropriately adorns the outside grounds.
A wonderful granite carve eagle flanks the Lincoln monument.
A closer look at the upper tower. Blue back-grounded thunderbirds circle the tower and "The Sower" stands on top. 
Walking inside the capitol was a bit of a shock. The square base is church-like, with a cross in a square, creating four interior courtyards. 
Vaulted ceilings could be the inside of a cathedral.
And the inside domes are in keeping with a cathedral.
Mosaic floors feature animals from Nebraska's very distant past, and I don't mean buffalo. More like mastodons and plesiosaurs. 

The interior decoration reminded me of an old Hollywood movie.

We took an elevator as high up into the tower as it would go. It stopped short of the very top, but there is an impressive viewing platform with great views of the city and St. Mary's below. 
A dome much higher in the tower.
St. Mary's as viewed from the platform. 
It is interesting to compare and contrast St. Mary's and the capitol building. St. Mary's is quite simple and understated, particularly when compared to the capitol, both inside and out, but it still stands out, in its own way. The capitol has many religious elements within it, including the cross in a square design, vaulted ceilings, ornately decorated inside domes and the Sower on top. The decoration is much more showy and gaudy, perhaps representing a shift of some of the economic ardor from the religious to the political. These two structures were the highlight of our visit to Lincoln. 


  1. Two impressive buildings. Your last paragraph says it all.

  2. I remember laughing at how ugly the capitol was, but then how my opinion changed after seeing the stunning interior. I loved its weird mix of classical and modern styles.

  3. I love the beauty of all churches. There is nothing quite like it. You walk in and it is just like peace overwhelms you. The beautiful hand work done throughout these treasures is astonishing. I would love to do a tour of the churches of our country someday. I think there is much to learn in the history and art.

    Carson Coronado @ Old St. Mary's Detroit

  4. St. Mary's was the Old Cathedral but then they build a new one so I think that is why the interior is not ornate anymore.