I recently bought a couple of postcards showing the interior of St. Michael’s Church in Biloxi, and it reminded me that I had taken a few pictures inside myself a while back when I was down on the Coast. If you’ve ever driven down Highway 90 (Beach Boulevard) in Biloxi, you’ve seen St. Michaels, its distinctive round shape and oyster-shell roof drawing your eyes away from the road. The building was constructed in 1964 and designed by Jackson architect James T. Canizaro, whose firm is still going a couple of generations later.
St. Michael’s was badly damaged by the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina, which washed out the building up to eight or nine feet high. Much of its surrounding neighborhood on the Point was completely washed away and has struggled to rebuild. But St. Michael’s, unlike many other churches on the beach, made a decision to rebuild and repair rather than abandon their community and build a new church up north on I-10.
You might have wondered whether the building was as interesting inside as it is on the outside? The answer is a resounding YES! Thin vertical stained-glass windows surround the visitor, filling the interior space with a deep dark glow. The Modernist windows were designed by the Emil Frei Company, of St. Louis, one of those great long-lasting artistic companies that was able to come back after Katrina and repair the windows using the original drawings. I think they might have also created some new glasswork, especially in the vestibule, but also some beautiful panels within the sanctuary (that unfortunately I couldn’t really capture in a picture because of the low light when I was there).
As I stood in the middle of the church, with the tall human figures staring down on my from all sides, I was reminded of the “great cloud of witnesses” from Hebrews 12:1: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Next time you’re speeding down Highway 90 in Biloxi, take time to stop in to appreciate this modern but expressionist church.