In 2019, after much prayer, Bishop Roger J. Foys began plans to bring the mortal remains of Bishop Maes to the Cathedral for reburial, honoring his final wish to be buried in the “monument to Christ” that he and God’s people built. The transfer of his remains also stirred in Bishop Foys another idea to honor Bishop Maes: the completion of the façade.
After an architectural study, it was determined that the façade’s portal jam niches, buttress niches, and tympana reliefs could structurally support the statuary long envisioned by Cathedral architects Leon Coquard and David Davis. Launching a campaign titled “Speaking for Centuries,” $250,000 in gifts were raised by parishes, faithful, and institutions; no diocesan funds were used for the campaign.
Philadelphia’s St. Jude Liturgical Arts Studio was awarded the project and world-renowned ecclesiastical artist Neilson Carlin was commissioned to design 24 statues honoring the Diocese of Covington’s parishes and institutions, and 2 tympana bas reliefs to complete the Marian tripart portal schema. Drawing inspiration from the Cathedral’s neo-Gothic architecture and extant sculptural work by 20th century sculptor Clement J. Barnhorn, Carlin’s sculptural designs fuse 19th century aesthetic and tradition with 21st century vision and artistry.
Twenty, full-round statues fill the 20 portal jamb niches and honor the patron saints of Covington’s 47 parishes and diocesan institutions. Each statue measures 1’6” W x 4.25’ H x 1’ D and weighs 250 lbs. Each portal’s saints are grouped to highlight an important facet of the saints’ lives: Martyrs of Faith – North Portal of the Annunciation; Reformers of Faith — Central Portal of the Assumption; and Teachers of Faith — South Portal of the Coronation.
Four buttress niche statues, symbolize the patrons of the Diocese of Covington: St. Thomas More; St. Paul the Apostle; St. Peter the Apostle; and St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Each ¾ round statue measures 1’6” W x 4.25’ H x 1’ D and weighs 275 lbs. The Annunciation and Coronation tympana complete the portal schemata of the façade and the visual narrative of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s life. The saints at the bottom register of the Coronation tympanum compliment and join the 20 portal jamb statues honoring the patron saints of Covington’s 47 parishes and diocesan institutions. Each tympanum measures 8’10” W x 7’ H x 1’ D and weighs 2,320 lbs.
Dedicated on June 6, 2021, the completion of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption façade by Bishop Roger J. Foys marks a historic moment in the life of the Diocese of Covington.
Photo credit Reverend Jordan Hainsey