By: Jacob Prince
Anyone walking down Bardstown Road near the intersection with Eastern Parkway will have probably noticed an enormous church whose bright orange stone immediately catches the eye. St. James Catholic Church’s fantastic external architecture adds a byzantine flare to the city, but it holds no candle to the breathtaking beauty that lies within.
The church was originally constructed in 1913 by architect James J. Gaffney, and is listed in the official National Register of Historic Places. The building has changed very little since its inception save for a 2006 remodel helping to retouch the age-dulled features.
Today, anyone who enters the church will walk briefly under a large balcony before a view of the church’s grand, Vatican-esque, dome opens before them. The dome features 12 marble statues of Jesus’ Apostles, and above them 12 angels bearing aspects of Holy virtue. The dome is crowned most notably however, by a gold-lidded, blue-pupiled, eye of God staring down from the heavens into the pews below.
On the left hand wall there is a stained glass window featuring Jesus the Son, the eye of God the Father claims the central dome, and on the right wall is another stained glass window featuring God the Holy Spirit. These in tandem represent the Holy Trinity and its presence in the heavens over all man.
In the very center of the church, right down the central aisle, stands exalted the church’s High Altar. It is here that the priests lead worship and bless the Holy communion inside a small door in the altar. It is styled after the legendary Ark of the Covenant housed in the Tabernacle detailed in Leviticus, and like the Tabernacle’s Inner Sanctum, the space nearby is not to be breached by any except the church’s priests.
Below the stained glass windows on either side of the church there are 14 icon paintings in beautifully constructed frames detailing the walk of Jesus to the cross and his return.
Mass is conducted in the usual Catholic manner, with many songs of praise and regular kneeling in respect for God. To accompany every song a powerful organ seated upon the great balcony in the back of the church sounds beautiful, resonant chords.
The church does much to encourage community, and occasionally offers refreshments at the conclusion of every service. Here all of the attendees can talk with the priests and each other, so that the parish may grow more closely knit and loving.
St. James Catholic Church is a spectacular building whose presence improves Louisville’s intrigue. To attend a service there is a blessing for anyone, regardless of stance or religious orientation.