Everything You Need to Know about the Basilica of St. Lawrence

When you visit the historic downtown area of Asheville, N.C., you’ll discover it is filled with interesting architecture and an array of buildings with historic significance. One building that stands out above the rest is the gorgeous Basilica of St. Lawrence on Haywood Street. As the only basilica in western North Carolina, this landmark structure was designed and built by a Spanish architect that also help build the Biltmore House. From its position in historic downtown Asheville, the Basilica of St. Lawrence is immediately recognizable with Spanish Renaissance style and its freestanding elliptical dome – the largest in North America. While incredibly beautiful on the outside, there is much more to discover inside the building. Let’s take a look.

Everything You Need to Know about the Basilica of St. Lawrence

What is a Basilica?

History tells us that the term basilica dates back to the early Greek and Roman times. The word originally referred to a type of public building. It wasn’t until the 4th century that basilicas were used as a place of worship. In modern times, the word describes a special designation given by the Pope to certain churches. These churches have great historical significance as a place of worship and there are only 56 of them in the U.S. including the Basilica of St. Lawrence.

History of the Basilica of St. Lawrence

As the only basilica in western North Carolina, this landmark structure was designed in 1905 by a Spanish architect and took for years to build. This architect, Rafael Guastavino, originally came to the Asheville area to work on the Biltmore mansion. He fell in love with the area and decided to stay and eventually built this beautiful basilica with the help of other Catholics in the region.

Tour the Basilica

Several tours of the basilica are available including a self-guided tour, as well as the recommended guided tour. As with any tour, the guided experience will give you additional insight and allow you to ask questions.

During both tours, you’ll find out that the basilica, designated as a minor basilica in 1993 by Pope John Paul II, as well as learn more about the Italian-made statues of saints including St. Lawrence, St. Cecilia, St. Rose of Lima, St. Patrick and St. Peter the Apostle. The high alter is an incredible sight, made from marble quarried in Tennessee, as is the fresco painting of the Last Supper that adorns the front of the altar. Even more incredible is the Spanish wood carving of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Beloved Disciple mourning at the crucifixion of Christ. Visit the website to download the self-guided tour brochure and to make an appointment for a guided tour.

Eye-Catching Stained Glass Windows

The stained glass windows throughout are exquisite and elaborate in their depiction of several stories from within the Bible. The two largest windows represent Christ healing the afflicted and the Transfiguration of Christ and the Resurrection of Christ.

Plan Your Visit

As well as tours, you are certainly welcome to attend the Catholic Mass in Asheville held at the Basilica of St. Lawrence. Visit the website for mass, confession and devotion times throughout the week. The Basilica of St. Lawrence is less than an hour from the Esmeralda Inn & Restaurant in Chimney Rock, which makes it easy to plan a trip into the city to visit the Basilica, as well as other important sites such as the Biltmore, the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

Let the Esmeralda Inn serve as your home base during your stay. No matter what activities you enjoy during the day, take the time to relax and enjoy our luxurious accommodations as well as a delicious meal in our restaurant. For more information about Esmeralda Inn, please visit our website or download our Vacation Guide.