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The Basilica of St. Lawrence houses oldest art in Asheville

Under the great dome of the Basilica of St. Lawrence is the body of the man who built the historic structure as well as some priceless pieces of 17th century art.

Filled with works from Germany, Spain, Italy and many other places, much of the church’s art is at least a few hundred years old. Asheville is well-known for its art, and the Basilica of St. Lawrence contains some of Asheville’s oldest and most spectacular pieces.

Spanish architect & Asheville resident Rafael Guastavino, a famed architect/builder commissioned to help construct the Biltmore Estate, built the Basilica along with fellow architect R.S. Smith. Built in the Spanish Renaissance style using a method of design for which he was already famous, Guastavino liked embedding layers of flat tiles in strong mortar to create thin but surprisingly strong, arched vaults.

The Basilica of St. Lawrence’s dome is purported to be the largest unsupported dome in North America at 82 feet by 58 feet. There are no reinforcing beams in the structure.

In the Chapel of Our Lady (to the left of the main altar) stands a painting by the 17th century Italian painter Massimo Stanzione, above the door to the sacristy. "The Visitation" depicts Mary, mother of Jesus, talking with her cousin Elizabeth. Surrounding the sanctuary are stained-glass windows designed by Franz Mayer & Co. of Munich, Germany.

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