Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Despite my lapsed Catholic status, I had no idea what a Minor Basilica was until I researched this post.  There are just 4 Major Basilicas in the world and are regarded as personal churches for the Pope.  There are many Minor Basilicas which are an elevation of  a Cathedral, followed by Churches and finally  Chapels.

The Parish of Natchitoches in Louisiana was first founded in 1728 and the first church was built within the walls of the Fort St Jean Baptiste circa 1729-1733.  Pope Pius IX granted Cathedral status to the 6th Church of the Immaculate Conception in 1853. The current Minor Basilica, below and in all the images, is the 7th church built in the general area.

The building above is the current and hopefully final building.  It was completed circa 1900-1905.  Pope Benedict elevated it from a Cathedral to Minor Basilica status in 2009.  The turbulent history surrounding the Basilica belies its peaceful appearance, from its beginning in colonial Louisiana through fire, Civil War and finally a magnificent edifice in a sleepy little town.

I was struck by how this architecture and interior differed from Cathedrals and Churches in Texas. It echoed the French style of the original Arcadian settlers. The arches were so finely painted in gold and the chandeliers sparkled. On the first stained glass image you can see the Fleur de Lys, the state flower and symbol of Louisiana.

How to read maps…in El Paso

Church of the Immaculate Conception, El Paso

Church of the Immaculate Conception

This is the Catholic Church I was looking for, however, if you look at a map upside down you end up at the other end of town… I traipsed across an Interstate, train-tracks and found myself in a pawn shop area. There was a beautiful Anglican church below – which I would have gone into, if it was open. Eventually, I did the sensible thing and went into the pawn shop and asked where the church was. Even with that, I had to go into the police station, closer to the Immaculate Conception to check where I was. Usually, I am a good navigator but I guess God was leading me on a different path.

'Not the Catholic Church' St Clement Anglican Church

‘Not the Catholic Church’
St Clement Anglican Church

Both churches were really beautiful but the sky around the Immaculate Conception church was breathtaking. It was a small church within the downtown area and there were some parishioners praying. Suddenly I was back 40 years because one of the ladies had a long scarf over her head. Back in the day, women couldn’t enter a Catholic church without a head covering. A scarf was sufficient, occasionally a Mantilla, but today I was wearing a $3 Fedora.

This is just the sort of church I love. Small, intimate, beautifully decorated by those who care for it.

stained-glass-el-paso

Station of the Cross Christ consoling the women

Station of the Cross
Christ consoling the women

St Anthony and stained glass

St Anthony and stained glass

One of the comments on my previous church post referred, with astonishment, that there could be intact stained glass windows all over Texas. I am astonished that anyone could break a stained glass church window but perhaps that’s my naivety. My rose tinted illusions about the USA are getting shattered daily. Doesn’t everyone have friends of different ethnicity, religion and color? What’s wrong with the world?

Catholic Masons.

Catholic Masons.

I think I could get smitten for that… For those who don’t know, the Knights of Columbus are not dissimilar to the Masons. At one time Catholics could not join the Masons, so they had their own society. I don’t approve of Masons, Knights or Sororities but I was one of the Drama Group Geeks who always felt on the outside. I was so shocked when I discovered my paternal great grandparents were both Masons. WHAT! I didn’t even know they were Protestant… 👿

Masonic Sphinx

Masonic Sphinx

I loved this Sphinx in front of the Masonic Hall – just trying to balance things. 😇