From the outside, the copper-hued dome adorned with the cross hints at Byzantium.
The red ceramic roof and cream-colored walls provide a visible link to the Spanish who first brought the Catholic creed to Northeast Florida.
And inside the new St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Jacksonville, worshipers are regaled with wrought iron, a mosaic, an altar of Irish mottled green marble and dozens of stained-glass windows.
Such architectural features blended smoothly with the elation of more than 2,500 people who turned out yesterday for the sanctuary's dedication ceremony.
"This place is very special because it is here we may get a better vision of the Lord," Bishop John J. Snyder of the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine told those assembled.
With its formal dedication complete, St. Joseph's is now the largest church among the diocese's 53 parishes, officials said.
To St. Joseph's parishioners, the dedication of the new 36,500-square-foot church represented more than just a chance to mark an increase in seating capacity.
The festivities bore the pomp and circumstance of a 21st century coming-out party for the thousands of Catholics living in the city's Mandarin neighborhood.
"Wonderful, wonderful," said Mickie Boote, a Mandarin retiree in her 70s. "I got goose bumps. I already feel that I died and went to heaven."
During the service, as the bishop anointed the walls, altar and congregants, Boote was moved to tears, she said.
The new church can be compared with its two existing predecessors, located across St. Augustine Road in Mandarin.
Together these three buildings provide a physical record of the evolution and growth of what was once a small country parish.
The floor plan of the oldest building, a white wooden church, dedicated in 1912 and still used for weekday morning Mass, is in the shape of a crucifix.
Its tabernacle, which holds the host used for communion, sits in an elaborate altar located at the very front of the church, a design that harkens back to a day before the changes of Vatican II in the mid-1960s.
In that earlier era, priests largely conducted the service with their backs to those assembled.
After Vatican II, the Catholic Church shifted the worship service and sanctuary design to more fully involve the assembly in the liturgy.
The next St. Joseph's church, dedicated in 1980, reflects these shifts.
That building opens up into a diamond-shaped wedge with the altar toward the front, but that area is designed so that the priest faces the congregation.
From the outside, a roof that starts low near the entrance and lofts sharply coming to a height above the altar is the building's most visible external detail. …