Raphael Guastavino, Architect of St. Lawrence Basilica

Raphael Guastavino, Architect of St. Lawrence Basilica

Entry of Guastavino’s personal wine cellar, Christmount. Photo courtesy of Rev. Rob Morris, executive director

On Thursday, March 12, at 5:30 p.m., the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County (PSABC) will host a presentation about Raphael Guastavino, the architect of St. Lawrence Basilica. Presented by Dr. Jane Rogers Vann, the program will take place in the undercroft of the basilica.

Guastavino traveled to America from Valencia, Spain, in 1881. He designed and constructed vaulted tile ceilings at the Biltmore Estate for George Vanderbilt and also built a home and kiln in Black Mountain. Guastavino also designed and built the Spanish Baroque St. Lawrence Basilica in Asheville, where he is interred.

“Guastavino’s work is interesting for several reasons,” Vann says. “First, the beauty of the domes, arches and vaults naturally draws the eye and adds elegance to the buildings. Second, the scope and depth of Guastavino’s work is breathtaking. There are well over a thousand structures designed and built by Rafael Guastavino and his son, Rafael, Jr. Third, there is a mystery to the way they are built and how they can support the extraordinary loads their designs demand. Guastavino intuitively understood the engineering of domes and vaults, the mathematics of which modern computers are only now beginning to master.”

Vann’s presentation includes color Powerpoint slides; a discussion of Guastavino’s life, work and engineering expertise; and a focus on present restoration work being done at the St. Lawrence Basilica.

St. Lawrence Basilica is located at 97 Haywood Street in Asheville. To access the undercroft, enter from the north side of the building and go downstairs. A $10 suggested donation helps support local preservation efforts. For more information, visit

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