The arrangement of St. Mary's is straightforward. A truncated transept rapidly forces attention on the altar, bathed in light from above. Heavenly aspirations pull the viewer/audience/supplicant forward to glorious resolution. Light floods the space with heavenly grace.
|1. The barrel-vaulted nave of St. Mary's focuses attention on the alter.|
|2. Hints of light.|
|3. The dome above the alter at St. Mary's.|
|4. The alter at St. Mary's.|
|5. Exterior, Basilica of St. Mary's in Minneapolis.|
Across the river at the Cathedral of St. Paul, manipulation of interior volume is more obviously thematic with a hypnotic repetition of circles, arcs, and domes. If anything, it is even more spectacular than its sister in Minneapolis. The ambulatory unfolds with a stunning series of chapels, resplendent with monumental statues and some of the richest marble floor designs found anywhere. All culminates in a magnificent dome full center in the space. Here the main upward thrust is over the nave, not the altar (though the altar is celebrated by a baldachin that rivals the Vatican's). The effect is uplifting - the spirit soars with the crescendo of the architecture. Man seems exalted - a theater-in-the round with the audience in the middle, blessed by glorious light.
|6. The great dome over the nave of St. Paul's Cathedral.|
|7. Rose window at St. Paul's.|
|8. Central dome over the nave; secondary apse over the alter at St. Paul's.|
|9. The benediction of heavenly light.|
|10. Space unfolding.|
|11. Exterior, St. Paul's Cathedral in St. Paul.|
|12. Floor plan, St. Paul's.|
12. Minneapolis Star Tribune