Wednesday we went to The Basilica of Saint Mary in downtown Minneapolis. We went to view The Life of a Swiss Guard exhibit specifically and to visit the Basilica in general.
A couple of quick logistic tips first. The Basilica is located in bustling downtown Minneapolis immediately adjacent to I-94 which is currently under construction and traffic is a mess as a result. Parking during the week is challenging. There is parking via permit under the freeway, visitors can utilize the parking garage at Minneapolis Community and Technical College but it isn’t high profile vehicle friendly. There is street parking available, $2 for two hours. We did learn that you can park along the street within the Basilica grounds without a permit despite the posted signs from Kathy Dhaemers, Associate Director of Sacred Arts.
For the non-Catholic readers of the blog who may be wondering what differentiates a church from a basilica, simplest explanation is that a basilica is a Catholic Church with special designation from a Pope. In this case, in 1926 Pope Pius XI elevated the Cathedral to that of a minor basilica. It was the first basilica in the United States and the became known by it’s current name of The Basilica of St. Mary.
The inside of the Basilica is very reminiscent of Catholic Churches built in the Twentieth Century. Soaring ceilings, beautiful stained glass, wooden pews, and an alter above the congregation. In ever sense of the phrase, this a “high church” example of architecture and reverence. The artwork in beautiful but subdued. The statuary reminds the parishioner that they are in a Church and not a stadium meant to hold a thousand people.
The Exhibit: A Day in the Life of the Swiss Guard was a collection of photographs and some artifacts. The photographs were quite stunning, showing the everyday life of what it means to be a member of the Swiss Guard. It is far more than a fancy uniform standing guard at the Vatican. Every member of the Swiss Guard is a practicing Roman Catholic and a member of the Swiss military. These dedicated men are the equivalent of the U.S. Secret Service. They are the personal bodyguards of the Pontificate and don’t ever let their brightly colored, ceremonial uniforms fool you into thinking differently.
The exhibit wasn’t overly large but it provided a wonderful glimpse into the Swiss Guard. When we spoke with Kathy, she said that they have exhibits at the Basilica on a regular basis.
As we left the Basilica we strolled the hallways and then through the grounds on the way back to truck. The huge oaks make the lawn shady on a warm and humid summer’s afternoon. On our way out, we ran across this original architecture drawing on linen for the basilica. It is a beautifully preserved piece of history.
If you are visiting the Minneapolis area and don’t mind a wee bit of traffic congestion, then please schedule a visit to the Basilica of Saint Mary. The quiet beauty of the Basilica makes the hustle and noise of the city fade away. The staff is friendly, helpful, and eager to answer any and all inquiries.