Guess what? The Baltimore Sun had a nice news story today about the renovation of the 200-year-old Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is about to reopen after two years and $32 million worth of work. I especially liked this detail from reporter Liz F. Kay:
The sunlight entered through 24 skylights restored in the basilica dome, illuminating murals of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that were discovered there.
. . . Guests from St. Alphonsus Church, which hosted those displaced when the basilica closed two years ago for full-time renovations, attended Mass at the basilica Sunday along with basilica parishioners. Michael J. Ruck Sr., a parishioner and chairman of the board of the Basilica Historic Trust Inc., said he sat in the last row for the service so he could see people's reactions as they walked in.
When clouds moved overhead, people would gasp as the nave darkened and then brightened again. "I said to myself, 'It's like this grand old lady took a deep breath,'" he said.
It's a nice daily story that is 800-plus words long in the online version and I could swear that it looks longer in the print edition.
This is, after all, a very important story about one of the most historic and significant buildings in an important American city that prides itself on its history.
I liked the story. Did I say that already? It is true that I wished the Sun had pursued the story a bit deeper, perhaps contacting some people and sources that were not at the actual media tour that provided the hook for this story.
I wanted to know more about the recovered art and any changes that were made in the architecture. This is important, especially when modern American Catholics renovate the classic sanctuaries designed, built and used by premodern Roman Catholics. What, for example, happened with the altar? Where there any changes made now? Had changes been made right after Vatican II, changes that were hasty and cleaned up a bit in this renovation? Where did they locate the tabernacle that holds the Blessed Sacrament?
What happened to the stained-glass windows that were removed during this work?
Like I said, I liked the story -- but I had a few non-media-tour questions.
I also thought this was a story that deserved a location better than 8B, under the weather maps and after the obituaries.
I mean, this is the city's historic basilica. But, hey, it probably wasn't as important to Baltimore people as that page one story about Kentucky Fried Chicken deciding to change its cooking oil over to healthier stuff that avoids most trans fats. That'll happen sometime in the next year.
It was probably a tossup, you know.
The basilica or the fried chicken? Which would it be? Journalists have to make tough decisions like that. Yes, I know that Sun editors put a stand-alone feature picture of the basilica and Cardinal William Keeler on the front page. It looks pretty.
UPDATE: Amy Welborn, in comments, notes that I missed a Sunday Sun package that offered more details on the renovation. However, I still think this daily news story deserved a better location than the very last page of the Metro section.