This project started, innocently enough, with a trip to the Cathedral of Saint Paul, Minnesota, when I was in a bit of an artistic rut. Not being religious myself, I wasn't looking for anything but photographs. My hope was to find some interesting photographic opportunities and something would develop from there. The unintentional, year-long project that arose from that first trip in 2011 has been a real joy. I have staggered my visits throughout the year in different seasons, days of the week, and times of day to get a well-rounded view of the place and the people it attracts.
When I made my way to the cathedral, I found out that everyone is looking for something when they step across the threshold. What each person is looking for varies, and everyone is looking for something different, but people come from far away to marvel at the Saint Paul Cathedral. They congregate here not only on Sundays, but all week long; the tourist attraction and the house of worship blend seamlessly into one. The holy and the mundane coexist beautifully.
Tourists come to the cathedral to take pictures and sightsee. It is one of the few places I have been to in Minnesota that makes me feel like I am in Rome, and perhaps that's the point. The grandeur and size of the dome are awesome; the intricate details in the marble are gorgeous. There is a gift shop, and even a Lego reconstruction of the cathedral, in the basement, which seem far removed from the Roman-inspired marble up above. And yet, they coexist amicably. They are all part of a larger whole. Again, the coexistence of the material and the spiritual is something to behold.
People of faith come to worship. One need not be Catholic to admire the structure, or sit in quiet, thoughtful reverence in a pew. The saints, in marble or oil, truly are worthy of admiration. The rich level of detail and artistry, and the size of it force the visitor to look all around and admire the precision with which which the cathedral was constructed, and maintained. The tranquility inside the cathedral is only broken by the occasional hushed whisper; the appreciation and politeness with which visitors—religious and non-religious—treat the cathedral is thoroughly impressive. Finally, there are others on site who are working here. Janitors and maintenance people keep the cathedral clean, quiet, and looking good. The heavenly needs the secular, too; its a dependent relationship.
Time and time again, I returned to the quiet solitude of the cathedral. In both summer and winter, the temperature is comfortable, and regardless of noise and bustle outside its walls, the interior is quiet and peaceful. I would wander around, just looking. I never was sure what I was looking for, and I'm not sure I found it. The cathedral gave me plenty, but it still has far more to offer. I hope you enjoy the project as much as I enjoyed creating it.
Trevor A Saylor
Minneapolis, October 2012