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Look inside, learn the secrets of the Tri-State's most beautiful churches

WCPO viewers, readers pick their favorites
Posted at 5:33 PM, Apr 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-18 20:09:48-04

CINCINNATI — The Tri-State has an abundant amount of beautiful, historic, iconic places of worship.

WCPO asked you, our viewers and readers, which ones you would pick the most beautiful. Here are the three we saw mentioned over and over, along with some church "secrets” that will surprise you. Be sure to look for them if you visit.

Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption (1140 Madison Ave., Covington)

Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption

"We sort of think we are the best kept secret," said Stephen Enzwiler, historian of the cathedral in the heart of downtown Covington.

"A lot of people ask, 'What on earth is a French Gothic cathedral doing in Covington?’"

Enzwiler said the basilica has 82 stained glass windows and hand carved wood from Germany, Venetian mosiacs, Italian marble and a giant glass wall.

Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption

"It's one of the largest in the world. Near as we can figure out,” Enzwiler said, “it's one of the largest church stained glass windows in the United States and, we think, the world.”

It's 67 feet high by 24 feet wide and it took about six craftsmen a month to install it in November of 1911.

If you come, Enzwiler said try to find at least two versions of Satan portrayed in the windows, and good luck finding all of the angels.

"Throughout all the windows in the cathedral, we have 115 angels,” he said.

St. William Church (4108 W. Eighth St., West Price Hill)

St. William Church

We asked Ann Andriacco what there is to love about this church.

"Oh, I would say 'everything',” Andriacco, a parishioner, replied.

St William Church has stood tall since 1930.

"Everything speaks symbolism,” Andriacco said. “Everything tells you what we believe. Everything represents something in this building ...

“I mean every single carving. Every single arch … Twelve columns for the apostles. Everything."

The Romanesque structure has giant columns made of single pieces of marble. The rose window is 18 feet in diameter. And there is the bell tower.

St. William Church

“There are four bells up there - 2,600 pounds down to 400 - and they came from St. Michael's Church. The tower is built on bedrock to support that,” Andriacco said. “And they are usable bells. They do ring."

If you visit, Andriacco said make sure to look hard at the cross.

"You look at this side and you see Christ, but he's dressed in the dogmatic as a deacon. But there's a secret on the other side."

There is one more secret in this church. It’s a purposeful mistake.

“It's in the mosaic pieces,” she said. “Those strips that are running on the baldacchino - there's one that's upside down," she said.

Old St. Mary’s Church (123 E. Thirteenth St., Over-the-Rhine)

Old St. Mary’s Church

Near Downtown is the oldest standing church in Cincinnati. They started building Old St. Mary’s 178 years ago on March 25, 1841.

It was finished the following year on July 12, 1842.

The pastor, the Rev. Jon Paul Bevak, tells how.

"The story is, the ladies would take the stuff to make the bricks and then they would bake the bricks in their ovens at night,” Bevak said. “As the men would go back to work the next day, they would drop the bricks off and slowly the structure went up.

"It's older than the Civil War. The bell tower served as a watch tower to see if the Confederates were coming,” he said.

Old St. Mary’s Church

One of the most unique features is that the picture behind the altar changes with the church calendar.

“It's just on a pulley system,” Bevak said. “They're stacked one behind the other. We lower one, we pull the other one up.”

The stained windows are of flowers, not saints. The ceiling is painted to look three dimensional.

“You just look at it and you're like, ‘I have no idea how they did this,’ “ he laughed.

What’s the church's big secret?

"The big secret is actually at the altar. There's a glass right there in the center and inside there is actually the bones … the body of an early Christian martyr,” Bevak said.

“You can see the jawbone. Some of the longer bones just encased in a small little vessel you can see in the glass of the altar.”

Bevak said Mass is still celebrated in Latin, German and English weekly, bringing in close to 500 people every weekend.

“If you've not visited Old St. Mary's, you really should - even if it's only once," he said.

We got plenty of suggestions to visit a Jewish temple. We did request to visit it, but they declined.

We know there are so many houses of worship that are significant. Send me your suggestions at torourke@wcpo.com. Perhaps we will keep featuring these amazing structures.