LATROBE, Benjamin Henry
(b. 1764, Fulneck, England, d. 1820, New Orleans)

Baltimore Basilica

Pencil, ink, and watercolour on paper
Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore

This watercolour by the architect shows the exterior of Baltimore Basilica. This cathedral was the first large-scale Catholic church in the USA. It was raised to the rank of a Minor Basilica in 1937 by Pope Pius XI.

For the church Latrobe prepared two designs in both Gothic and "Roman" styles, preference finally being given to the latter in 1804. Sobriety and logical coherence are the main characteristics of the building, which in spite of its simplicity, radiates a sense of elevated dignity. This is largely due to its Ionic portico and the shallow stone dome, which is reminiscent of the Pantheon and rises above the crossing.

In spite of Latrobe's new additive approach to the design, the model for the church is clearly Jacques-Germain Soufflot's Sainte-Geneviève in Paris.