St. Louis Cathedral Basilica

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Objective: Identify symmetries of mosaic patterns at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

In 1922, and again in 1936, M. C. Escher visited the Alhambra, in Granada, Spain, a fourteenth century Moorish palace renowned for its decorative artwork. He (with his wife) made sketches of numerous wall tilings, sketches that he later used as sources for his own mathematical art.

The Cathedral Basilica

The All Souls Chapel in the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, Missouri

Here, in St. Louis, we are lucky to be a few minutes from some of the finest mosaic artwork in North America at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. The Basilica is located on the intersection of Lindell and Newstead. For this assignment, you will take photographs or make drawings of the tilings and borderpatterns in the Cathedral and investigate their symmetry groups.

The Cathedral is at 4431 Lindell at Newstead. This is about a 35-minute walk from SLU, or you can take the 93 Lindell bus. The Cathedral is open to the public, but you might want to call 533-0544 to check for special events.

  • Cathedral Visiting Hours: Daily 6:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Cathedral Shop & Mosaics Museum Hours: Daily10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
  • Official Cathedral Tours: Sunday at 1:00 PM (after noon Mass) Mon.–Fri. from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
  • Instructor’s Cathedral Tour: Time & date to be announced.

In the Cathedral, you are allowed to talk quietly and take flash photographs. However, the chapel on the back right side is reserved for quiet prayer (it's the place with gates). If anyone is using the prayer chapel, please do not enter. You may enter and take pictures if the chapel is not being used.

Your goal at the cathedral is to find examples of as many symmetry groups as possible. You can look at mosaics, but also furniture, floor patterns, or any other decoration inside or outside the building. There are many examples here of rosette symmetries, border patterns, and wallpaper patterns. Note that there are decorations on the floors, the walls, the ceilings and on the arched doorways. When looking for certain patterns, remember that you may use a part of a larger pattern to show for instance rosette symmetries. When you find an interesting symmetry, take a picture of it (or a drawing) and fill in the information on the attached checklist. For full credit, you need to find 9 different rosette symmetry groups, all seven frieze groups, and a mere five wallpaper groups. There are 17 wallpaper groups in all - but not all are represented in the Cathedral. After the Trip If you chose to take pictures (recommended), have your designated person develop the film. The Walgreens and the Schnucks on Lindell have developing labs. Everyone should kick in a couple of bucks for this. It costs around $7 to develop film. Hand in your checklist, showing which groups you found and a description of where in the cathedral you found them. On the back of each photo, label its symmetry group. (If you have a digital camera, print out photos or talk to the instructor about handing in a disk).


Rosette Group Photo ID Location Score
Frieze Group Photo ID Location Score
Wallpaper Group Photo ID Location Score

Handin: The checklist, all photographs, and the completed assignment