St.Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud, Minnesota
Rebuilt between 1922 and 1931 this church was designed to replicate the 3rd Century basilica-style Romanesque church in Ravenna. So it is not surprising that the architect included a number of decorative features found in Christian churches in those early centuries.
Some of these decorative features incorporated representations of the early Crux Gammata, or Gammadion, that appeared in many early iconographic contexts, not least in the Christian catacombs of Rome. The Gammadion so termed as it was deemed to have originated from 4 capital Greek gammas juxtaposed thus having the appearance of a traditional rectilinear Swastika.
Alternating with the Gammadion there appeared representations of the Basque Cross or Lauburu, a very distinctive curvilinear form of the Swastika, though not nearly so frequently encountered as the rectilinear form.
In the period of its construction these symbols would not have presented any problem as they had been generally accepted as legitimate variants of the Greek or Roman Christian Cross for centuries.
It was only in the mid-1930s that perceived similarity with the Nazi insignia began to cause responses ranging from mild surprise to outright consternation that such a symbol should appear on a Christian church. Books by Rudyard Kipling were provoking similar responses in this period and by 1933 Swastikas had been expunged from the covers of his books.
The church authorities felt that they had to make a decision. There were two options; either they had to retain these ‘suspect’ discs and provide an explanation to visitors, or they had to have them removed and replaced with softer symbols of catholic spirituality.
They finally decided to have them removed in May 2006 and provide a permanent display within the Cathedral, to inform visitors of what had been a significant feature up till then.