Christ the King Cathedral
When it comes to the establishment of dioceses across the United States, the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., could be considered one of the new kids on the block. It was officially erected less than 25 years ago — in 1988 — by Blessed John Paul II. However, do not let its newcomer status fool you. Its service to the people of eastern Kentucky extends some 16,400 square miles. Much of that territory is a vast chuck of poverty-stricken central Appalachia, where the diocese has planted itself as the light of Christ to those in need.
Earlier this year, my wife and I were traveling through Lexington and decided to make a visit to the diocese’s central church: Christ the King Cathedral. Unlike many diocesan cathedrals, Christ the King is nestled in a suburban-like neighborhood, as opposed to being located in the heart of downtown. As we would learn, Christ the King was not always the cathedral. It started as a parish with a school in the late 1940s. Today, the school is still in existence.
As we walked into the church building, which was dedicated in May 1967, we were struck by its cruciform design. The main altar is surrounded by pews on three sides. Light poured in from behind us through a magnificent stained-glass window above the main entrance. In brilliant detail is Christ the King seated on his throne, with his crown and scepter. Fittingly, in this 68-window scene, he is surrounded by saints and missionaries who served throughout North America. There's St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Blessed Junipero Serra, among others.
Equally impressive is the grand crucifix that hangs in an open tower above the main altar. The Crucified One is suspended above Mary and the Beloved Disciple, who gaze upward. Their adoring devotion is a reminder of Christ’s greatest sacrifice. The crucifix is suspended from an enormous circular crown. The crown motif decorates the four bronze chandeliers that light the altar as well.
According to the self-guided-tour pamphlet that we followed throughout our visit, the altar is made of imported Italian marble. Ornate columns with the crown motif support the altar. The pulpit contains incised crosses and representations of the Four Evangelists.
Not too far from the altar, we gazed upon the ornate artwork of the coat of arms located on the bishop’s chair. This shield for the diocese has a threefold theme. On the left side is a silver sword, which represents the Diocese of Covington. On the right side is a blue fleur-de-lis, the symbol of the previous Archdiocese of Lexington. These two Kentucky dioceses are represented because the Diocese of Lexington was formed from territory taken from each. At the bottom of the shield, the two sides come together at a point representing the mountains of eastern Kentucky. Inside this bottom section is a gold diadem on a silver cross in honor of Christ the King.
Unlike many historic or grand old cathedrals, the church’s organ and the choir space are behind the altar and not in a choir loft. The cathedral, known for its fine acoustics, hosts an annual concert series that features area choral ensembles performing throughout the year.
As we made our way to the Eucharistic chapel, we passed two beautiful statues. First was a brilliant statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is silhouetted against a multicolored gold mosaic. Then there was the statue of St. Joseph, who stands tall, with his carpenter’s apron and tools.
In Psalm 29 of the Book of Psalms we read, “The Lord reigns as king forever! May the Lord give might to his people; may the Lord bless his people with peace" (10-11).
As we knelt down before the tabernacle, we thanked God for our brief visit and the chance to renew our belief that Jesus Christ is truly our King, as celebrated on the Solemnity of Christ the King, Sunday, Nov. 25. The cathedral in Lexington is certainly a visual reminder of the heavenly majesty of which we are all part.
Eddie O’Neill writes from New Castle, Colorado.
Planning Your Visit
Cathedral of Christ the King
299 Colony Blvd.
Lexington KY 40502