“From the Archives” Saint Joseph in the Basilica of Saint Mary
March 19 is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Foster Father of Jesus. Saint Joseph is depicted in both of those roles in artwork found here at the Basilica.
A white Italian marble statue of Saint Joseph holding the Infant Jesus is located on the left side of our sanctuary. Under the direction of Father Louis J. Smet, pastor here from 1915 to 1927, the statue was purchased in Italy in 1920 and placed above the smaller altar (since removed) that was located on the north side of the sanctuary. Saint Joseph and the Child Jesus also are depicted in a stained glass window inside the stairwell leading to the choir loft.
One of the three large paintings on the ceiling of the Basilica depicts the Death of Saint Joseph with Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary at his side. Tradition has long held that Saint Joseph died in the arms of Jesus and Mary and therefore is revered as the patron of a “happy death” – one in which the Sacraments have been provided. This painting is located just above the narthex at the Royal Street entrance of the Basilica. While the artist is not certain, its style is similar to the Most Holy Trinity painting on the ceiling near the sanctuary. Both are believed to be the work of Alexandria artist F.S. Shuman.
A stained glass window on the south side of the nave, or main section, of the Basilica depicts Saint Joseph as part of the Holy Family. This window was dedicated in memory of Thomas N. Scott and family. Scott, originally from Ireland, owned a carpentry shop (like Saint Joseph!) and worked on the church in 1883 when it was enlarged under the direction of local architect Philip N. Dwyer. He also was the contractor who built the parish Lyceum and was responsible for renovations of the church in 1894-95.
Throughout 2020, the Basilica of Saint Mary will present “From the Archives.” It is a weekly feature online and in our bulletin spotlighting the history of the parish. All of our “From the Archives” features are located here.