Cass Gilbert, the nationally regarded architect known for the U.S. Supreme Court building and the Minnesota State Capitol, is reported to have remarked: “If the dome of the Cathedral of St. Paul and that of the new state capitol were part of a city in Europe, they would be world famous.” The cathedral will get another shot at international fame Jan. 22-24, with the fourth annual Red Bull Crashed Ice season opener in St. Paul. As in years past, the ice cross downhill course is built to show off the Cathedral of St. Paul’s impressive facade.
Here are five reasons to go:
1. The athletes will look like they’re launching out the cathedral’s rose window. In past years, the track design wound around the Cathedral of St. Paul, but this year designers decided to make this dramatic backdrop the central focus.
The track starts just below the cathedral’s East-facing rose window, designed in 1931 by Charles J. Connick, the world’s finest stained-glass craftsman at the time. The 26-foot-diameter window’s theme is the resurrection, inspired by John 1:4: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
The window features a cross with the Lamb of God in its center, his banner signifying victory over death. In the cross’ arms are medallions of the 12 apostles; the four evangelists are depicted between its arms. Vines and branches weave throughout the entire window, recalling Jesus’s words in John 15:5: “I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
2. It restores the cathedral’s history of daredevil antics. Most Minnesotans wouldn’t climb to the top of the cathedral’s exterior dome even if OSHA allowed it, but many of the workers who created the building did – for fun. Historic photos show workers installing its ball and lantern – its very top – and painting from scaffolding high in its interior dome. One particularly hair-raising image shows workmen taking turns balancing on the stone pinnacles that surround the building, apparently just for the thrill of it.
3. If you get cold, the cathedral’s open. With highs of 36 degrees, the forecast for Jan. 23-24 is nicely above freezing, but still cold enough to warrant warming-up. The cathedral is opening its doors for the duration of the event, which culminates in the main event Jan. 24. (Practice runs and elimination rounds are scheduled Jan. 22-23.) In honor of the centennial anniversary of its first Mass, the cathedral is also hosting a photo exhibit, “A Timeline of Cathedral History.” The exhibit officially opens Jan. 25, but Crashed Ice attendees can get a preview.
If you’re looking for another kind of warmer, support the Cathedral Heritage Foundation and check out Frosty’s Bar from 5-10 p.m. Jan. 24 at the University Club, 420 Summit Ave. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door which include a VIP ticket, bar snacks a drink and a shuttle to and from Crashed Ice.
4. Support an inadvertent evangelization effort. Like the Basilica Block Party, which connects thousands of people with Minneapolis’ Basilica of St. Mary (the archdiocese’s co-cathedral) who may not usually go, Crashed Ice brings throngs of visitors to the cathedral’s grounds, and many inside. It seems like an appropriate circumstance for a church named for St. Paul, who was known to use the secular to teach the sacred. (Note the cathedral is also the National Shrine of the Apostle Paul.) It’s not a stretch to imagine the cathedral’s founder, Archbishop John Ireland, also loving the situation. “There should be no one who, entering the cathedral, is not able to say … ‘it is mine,’” he said.
5. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is a fan. Of the cathedral, at least; no word about Crashed Ice. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he visited the church in 1984. Later he remarked, “I remember the Cathedral of St. Paul as the most beautiful cathedral in the U.S.” The world watching Crashed Ice – by technology or in person – might be inclined to agree.
More Crashed IcePics: Crashed Ice track construction