SLC’s Cathedral of the Madeleine
Budget-Friendly, Kid-Friendly, Insane Architecture, Stained-Glass, Accessible, Cool Gargoyles, Fascinating Tympanums
by Donna M. Brown
A gypsy soul.
WHAT: Cathedral of the Madeleine
WHERE: 331 E S Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
WHEN: The Cathedral of the Madeleine is opened to the public during services and between services throughout each day. For guided tours, please visit the website at http://utcotm.org/.
WHY?: To learn about the history of religion, architecture and art in Salt Lake City. To explore diversity in a predominately Mormon community. To see some of the most beautiful artwork you will ever see in a serene, spiritual setting.
LEARN ABOUT: History, art, culture, religion, architecture, spirituality.
A Port in the Storm
I drove to Salt Lake City from my home in sunny Southern Utah that day. The trip was a blur. On my way out of town I dropped in to see my Pop. He was just getting into his car and his wife had a dark, grim look on her face. She leaned into my car window and murmured something. I couldn’t hear her and panic gripped me. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. I climbed out of the car and walked to him.
“Dad? What’s up?”
He looked at me and looked to his wife. “They found a tumor in your dad’s pancreas. We’re on our way to the doctor’s now,” Nellie said right out loud.
That smile of his, that handle-bar mustache-covered smile was sad and yet still a smile. “What does that mean?” I asked.
He looked me dead in the eye and said, “It means pancreatic cancer and a very short life span.” There it was. The end. He knew it, he had accepted it and he handed it to me like it was a bowl of potatoes at the kitchen table. I hugged them both and reassured him he would be alright. We both knew he was dying.
Want some time to process a problem? Drive 300 miles alone with fear twisting your cold heart in its icy fingers. I was in shock, but not in denial.
I was traveling to a family history conference in the city. My friends waited for me at the hotel, right next to the world’s largest family history center. While the women with whom I shared a room chattered and readied themselves for the day, it became clear to me that I could not possibly spend one minute focusing on the records of the dead. I needed to reach for the living.
Just weeks before, my father had given me the first professional camera I ever owned. I turned it over and over in my hands. Still in shock, I decided to walk outside and search for the beauty in what had become a dark and ugly world over night. So, on a grey and overcast day I went walking to find something (anything) to renew my soul. I decided to photograph the city while focusing on little bits of beauty all around me. There was no sun, no break in the blackening clouds.
I marched deadly through the historic downtown district and prayed for a spot of sun. At some point I looked at the sky and there it was, a huge blue patch and a surreal sparkle of sun. I (quite literally) walked toward the light in search of my shot.
I trudged along and looked up when I had to for direction. At last, I looked up to find myself standing at the stairs of the Cathedral of the Madeleine. Distracted from my grief by the striking beauty of the massive building, I slipped inside. I had arrived precisely in time for Easter mass. Although I am not a Catholic, I was drawn to a pew in the very back of the room. In the midst of the most beautiful paintings and glass art I had ever seen, I wept. I sobbed. I begged my Lord to comfort me. No one even acknowledged my presence and for that, I am eternally grateful. In a crowded room I sat alone with the Lord sobbing and listening to the joyful sound of children’s voices reverberating throughout the cathedral.
Three weeks later I held my daddy’s hand and recited Robert Frost with him, “… and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep … ” until he took his last breath.
Open Doors Await
The Cathedral of the Madeleine is a Roman Catholic church in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. It was completed in 1909 and currently serves asthe cathedral, or mother church, of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
The building is opened to the public throughout the day. You do not need any special permission to enter, just go in. It is dark, cool and comforting.
Children are welcome to enter and this is a great opportunity to teach them about respect, reverence and responsibility. As you wander through the cathedral, please pay particular attention to the beautiful stained glass windows in the Chapel of Our Lady of Zion.
Notice the magnificent colors that light up the ceiling and walls with stories of sacred beings and saints.
As striking as the interior of the building is, the exterior of this Roman Catholic wonder is every bit as inspiring. Covered with symbolism from the tympanums to the gargoyles that stand guard from the top of the building. This stop to smell the roses will take 20 minutes to hours out of your busy day; but, the memory will live forever in your five senses.