Built St. Louis > > MidCentury Modernism > > Emil Frei Stained Glass > > Calvary Cemetery Mausoleum

Calvary Cemetary Mausoleum
5239 West Florissant Avenue - north City
Architect: Harley, Ellington, Cowin and Stirton Inc., 1961

Stained Glass: Emil Frei Stained Glass
Design: Robert Harmon

Calvary Cemetery Mausoleum contains one of the largest collections of Emil Frei Mid-Century stained glass to be found anywhere, and as it is open daily, it is quite accessible.

Robert Harmon created windows almost entirely devoid of concrete imagery, relying instead on scriptural quotes and rectangular geometries. The words are elaborately rendered and ornamented with minute details.

The tone of the windows changes in the mausoluem's chapel; here brighter, broader fields of color dominate, and the palette expands beyond the blues, reds, and yellows that reign elsewhere. Symbolic images hide themselves among the abstractions: fish, the sun, the moon, a crown.

At the building's domed entry crossing, blue tones and more rigid geometry dominate the windows.

The mausoleum is very large; it is two stories high, with a long main corridor with numerous cross-passages intersecting its one main corridor. Polished stone lines most of the walls and floors, providing cool reflections of the elegant, insistently orthogonal Modernist stained glass.

The exterior is not particularly Modern, beyond being somewhat restrained in ornament; it more resembles an Art Deco interpretation of a fortress, clad in heavy stone with relatively spare ornament that hints at a Classical style. A side entry shows a more Modernist approach.

On my first visit - my first time in a mausoluem - my companions and I found some aspects of the building are a little off-putting. Besides the fact that it's a mausoluem, there were some very busy bug zappers installed at the end of each corridor. And the homey chairs and lamps they've added to make it seem more domestic just have the opposite effect. But the stained glass is beautiful.

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