Visit the State Capitol..., Saint Paul
One of distinguish buildings in Minnesota. It's set in a wide campus with a good view of downtown St. Paul and the Cathedral. There are monuments is front and golden chariots decorating the unsupported dome which is said to be the second largest in the world next to its model St. Pete's Basilica of Rome.
As a history buff, I have been looking for some historical celebrations as I consider my travel plans for 2005. One that I had hoped to find was a centennial commemoration of the Minnesota State Capitol Building but have found nothing at this time.
It is a very large, impressive building with what may be the largest marble domes in the world. Designed by Cass Gilbert, who also designed the US Supreme Court Building, the Woolworth Building in New York City, the state capitol buildings of West Virginia and Arkansas, and many other notable buildings, the Minnesota State Capitol was officially opened in 1905.
In talking about his design process, Mr. Gilbert stated that he had hoped to build a building "in the Italian Renaissance style, in quiet, dignified character, expressing its purpose in its exterior appearance." St Peter's in Rome was one of his primary influences for the building.
I am not certain but I think that it is probably the only capitol building in the United States, and perhaps in the entire world, which has a Rathskeller in the basement.
The name of the street which it faces may also be one of the longest street names in the world..
The Capitol building was designed by Cass Gilbert, an architect whose design won a competition that included 40 other entries. It took 9 nine years and 4.5 million dollars to complete and was opened on Jan. 5, 1905.
Our free tour of the Capitol was great. Along the way we saw the governor's reception room, the chambers of the Senate, House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court, all of which were very interesting. We saw many of the former governor's portraits - and of course recognized Jessie Ventura (of wrestling fame). The governors get to select all the specifics for their portrait -setting, clothing, position, etc.
I was surprised at the access we had to all the rooms but it was most likely because the House/Senate were not in session. The rotunda extends from the first floor several floors up, to the dome. In the center is a large star, which is the symbol of the "North Star State". Normally a crystal chandelier (6 feet in diameter) hangs from the dome but it was being cleaned. (We did get to see the chandelier and the cleaning process.)
The building is as beautiful from the outside as it is on the inside. The exterior of the building is made of white marble and granite. At the base of the huge dome is a golden sculpture group titled "The Progress of the State". Although the sculpture is actually made of copper, it is covered with gold leaf. As part of our tour of the building we were able to go to the top where they were actually restoring the statue and we saw them painting the gold leaf on.
After the tour we were allowed to explore further on our own.
Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 4 p.m.
Guided tours are offered Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Sunday, 1, 2 or 3 p.m.
Very easy to combine a visit to the Capitol, the Cathedral of St. Paul, Hill House, and Summit Avenue.
Minnesota State Capitol was designed by Cass Gilbert, the Italian Renaissance building bringing together sculpture, stenciled ceilings, murals, stone and color. More than 25 varieties of marble, limestone, sandstone and granite were used in the construction. The self-supporting marble dome is among the world's tallest. Highlights include the Governor's Reception Room and the chambers of the House of Representatives and Senate.
Admission was Free
:45 tours begin on the hour Mon.-Fri. 9-4, Sat. 10-3, Sun. 1-4; closed holidays.
Last tour begins 1 hour before closing
Before you go inside the State Capitol to see its interior, don't forget to look up and admire the Quadriga, which is placed above the entrance. This sculpture made of copper and covered with gold leaf is very hard to miss though, as it catches and reflects the light even on a dreary day like today. Standing in front of the State Capitol your eyes will automatically be drawn to it.
This beautiful sculpture was designed by Daniel Chester French and Edward Clark Potter and is titled "The Progress of the State". What makes this quadriga unique compared to other famous quadriga's in the world is that this one is entirely covered in gold leaf. If you look close at the second photo, you can see that the chariot driver is holding a banner with the state name of Minnesota.
A "quadriga", with quadri- meaning four in Latin, is a four horsed chariot. The Romans and Greeks used the symbol of the quadriga a lot, for example on vases. This is not so surprising, as in the classical mythology, quadrigas were the vehicles of the gods.
The 'modern' quadriga sculptures, like the one here in Saint Paul, are all based on the famous Triumphal Quadriga at the St. Marks Basilica in Venice. This is the only surviving ancient quardriga in the world. But you might have seen the quadriga in various other famous places as well, like on top of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris. Or maybe on top of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (unfortunately I don't have a photo of this one, as the Gate was under restoration at the time). Maybe I should also mention the quadrigas at the Semperoper in Dresden, Germany, the famous one on top of the Wellington Arch in London and of course I shouldn't forget the one on the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome either.
Another building that is very hard to miss while visiting Saint Paul is the State Capitol. This huge and eye catching building is located on the north edge of the downtown area. The view in the second photo is taken from the Saint Paul Cathedral, and here it is clear how impressive the State Capitol is, even from a relatively long way away.
The building of the State Capitol began in 1896 after the design of Cass Gilbert and the work was completed in 1905. You might think that there is something familiar about this building, and that could be correct, as Gilbert was inspired by the famous Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome when he designed the State Capitol. The exterior of the State Capitol is made of white Georgia marble and St. Cloud granite. I admired the State Capitol only from the outside, while a slight drizzle of rain was falling on my head.
But, what I of course should have done was walk to it much closer and try to join a tour to view the inside. What I didn't know at the time is that the interior is supposed to be beautifully decorated and I am quite sure that I would have loved the tour and seeing the interior. So if you are here, don't do like me, but do go inside and have a look.
In this brochure / pdf file about the State Capitol, you can read a bit more about its history, architecture and interior.
"When its white dome first swims into view there is a shock of surprise, then a rapidly growing delight in its pure beauty, and as one studies the building, inside and out, the surprise and delight increase. One leaves it with regret and with the hope of return.
-Kenyon Cox, Architectural Record, August 1905
The Minnesota State Capitol Building, which celebrated its centennial in 2005, is without doubt one of the most beautiful and impressive structures in all of Minnesota. It is a "must see" for it's historic and acrhitectural interest as well as being the seat of government for the state.
Guided tours are available on the hour. The last tour begins one hour before closing. Those who prefer may take their own self guided tour. We took our own tour, accidently got lost, and saw parts of the Capitol that are normally off limits to visitors.
Year-round: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays;
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays;
1 to 4 p.m. Sundays.
Prominent on the brow of the Capitol is an intresting gilded sculpture called, "Progress of the State," but known as the Quadriga. It was sculpted by Daniel Chester French and Edward Potter and placed on the Capitol in 1906 just one year after the building's construction was completed. I am told that: the four horses represent the power of nature (earth, wind, fire and water); the women symbolize civilization and the man standing on the chariot represents prosperity. The sculpture was removed and restored a decade ago.
Where the business gets done....or not done, depending on the year and the political climate.
Built between 1895 and 1905. Designed by the architect Cass Gilbert. The dome was patterned after St. Peter's in Rome and Gilbert described the building as being "in the Italian Renaissance style, in quiet, dignified character, expressing its purpose in its exterior appearance."
In side of the Minnesota State Capitol you can see where the state senators meet. If you are lucky they will be in session and you can see how state government works. The capitol has many beautiful paintings and architectural features. Just walk on in and take a look around. They made me feel quite welcome.
It is so beautiful inside that it looks a bit like a church or museum in some parts of the building.