About 130 years ago, the bishop of the Diocese of Covington, Kentucky, got an idea. The Most Rev. Camillus Paul Maes would construct a massive Gothic cathedral to honor the faith of his community. Today, that dream is reflected in the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption.
In 1894, Bishop Maes teamed up with Detroit architect Leon Coquard, who specialized in churches, and built Northern Kentucky’s own version of Notre Dame. The cathedral is one of 85 minor basilicas in the U.S.—the four majors are all in Rome—and it’s packed with fascinating features, from impressive stonework and sculpture to incredible stained glass and revered relics.
The church’s main entrance features stone carvings and statues by Cincinnati sculptor Clement Barnhorn. Decorative gargoyles and other mythical creatures, despite their sinister appearance, are believed to protect the upper colonnade from evil spirits.
Inside, massive columns lead the eye to the towering vaulted ceiling, complete with vivid stained-glass panels. Over 80 exquisite works of stained glass—crafted in Munich, Germany, carefully packed, and shipped across the Atlantic—depict noteworthy Biblical events like the Resurrection, the Sermon on the Mount, the Immaculate Conception, and more.
Down in the church’s relics chapel, you can peek at two skulls from St. Ursula’s companion martyrs, the hand bone of St. Paul, and forearm bones of St. Arnold of Arnoldsweilerall, a patron saint of musicians. In all, the relic collection consists of 350 authenticated religious artifacts.
Construction on the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption came to a halt in 1915, due to funding, leaving it largely unfinished even today. But the parts that are complete are well worth a look.
Know Before You Go
The cathedral is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and on weekends for regularly scheduled masses and confessions, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Free, self-guided tour brochures are available at the north entrance. Docent-guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more for a fee. Visit the cathedral’s website, covcathedral.com/visiting-tours, for more information about tours.