Three Indiana Limestones in Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, Indiana
Building Image
      The building above is Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, Indiana. The church was built in 1857 and 1858, replacing a wooden structure dating from 1837. It sits on Monument Circle in the heart of downtown Indianapolis, and it is the last of five churches on Monument Circle - the other four sold their valuable real estate for modern high-rise buildings like those seen in the background.

      The church is built of three limestones quarried in Indiana. They can all be seen on the right side of the image above.

  • The walls of the church are Laurel Limestone, a fine-grained irregularly-bedded pale green limestone of Silurian Age. A section of the south wall is shown in the first image below.

  • The quoins and buttresses are Jeffersonville Limestone, a finely laminated fine-grained limestone of Devonian age. The second image below shows a buttress of blocks of Jeffersonville; the blocks are turned with the bedding alternately horizontal and vertical, and tool marks left from dressing the stone can be seen too.

  • The steps, door and window frames, lintels, and belt course are Salem Limestone, a coarse-grained limestone of Mississippian age. The third image below shows a belt course (a horizontal band of stones) of Salem.

  •       The range of ages of limestone used thus span about 70 million years, from the mid-Silurian (about 420 million years ago) to the early-to-mid Devonian (about 390 million years ago) to the early-to-mid Mississippian (about 350 million years ago). Each of the limestones consists of sediment deposited on the seafloor, evidence of the extent to which central North America was flooded by seas repeatedly in the Paleozoic Era.

    A wall of Silurian Laurel Limestone:
    Stone Image
    A buttress of Devonian Jeffersonville Limestone:
    Stone Image
    A belt course of Mississippian Salem Limestone:
    Stone Image
         One of the blocks of Salem limestone in the south steps of the church features a nautiloid (a cephalopod) almost two feet in length:
    Stone Image
         Finally, in contrast to the Hoosier Paleozoic marine limestones visible from the outside, a much younger carbonate rock of non-marine origin and much more distant provenance is found in the floor of the foyer. It's a travertine, almost certainly of Quaternary age and probably quarried in Idaho or Italy.
    Stone Image
          The change from ancient rugged Indiana limestones on the exterior to an exotic modern stone on the interior thus provides a symbolic architectural transition from the midwestern environment on the outside to something much younger and of non-Hoosier origin on the inside.



    Acknowledgments:  Much of the information reported above about stone in Christ Church Cathedral comes from the very useful Guidebook of Building Stones in Downtown Indianapolis by Dr. Art Mirsky of the Department of Geology of Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). The information regarding the history of the church is from A Walking Tour [of] Christ Church Cathedral, a twenty-page pamphlet that describes the features of the church in great detail without mentioning its stone. In a remarkable feat of denial, the pamphlet actually refers to the church as "brick and mortar" rather than limestone and mortar.


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