Diocesan News

Catholic Photographer Reaches Milestone in Goal to Shoot all U.S. Cathedrals

Born into an interfaith family that attended Lutheran services every week, Andrew Masi turned to Catholicism at age 16. God spoke to him, he said, and he has never questioned his faith since. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Since 2014, Andrew Masi has had an all-consuming goal: to photograph all the cathedrals and basilicas in the United States. 

In nearly nine years trekking across the country, Masi, 36, has photographed 55 basilicas, and is planning to visit his 100th cathedral, in Memphis, Tennessee, during the Labor Day weekend. He proclaimed that his quest — all but halted during the COVID-caused pandemic — is more than halfway completed. 

On July 31, his journey brought Masi to the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights, home of DeSales Media, the ministry that produces The Tablet. As he toured the ornate Brooklyn church in search of just the right photos, he shared the way he used his Samsung Galaxy 10 to frame its stained glass windows, statues, and pews to best capture their allure.

“What draws me in is of course our Lord and the Blessed Sacrament, but it’s the history, the beauty, the architecture of a church,” Masi explained, adding that he uses only a cell phone camera to take his photos, because “people always said less is more, and they’re right.”

To date, Masi has visited 35 states, from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Masi said there are 192 cathedrals and 92 basilicas in the United States. When he is done with this collection, he said he plans to visit cathedrals around the world, notably Notre Dame in Paris once it reopens.

Masi’s journey began after he attended an Easter Mass at Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark two weeks after the death of his grandmother Josephine. Sitting in the pew, he glanced at the church’s ceiling and was overwhelmed by its beauty.

“The idea popped into my head: What if each cathedral across the country looked as magnificent as this place? Then the idea came to go out and see for myself,” he said. 

Masi turned upward to take photos of the ceiling of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. He took wide shots of the entire ceiling, and can be seen here zooming in for a close-up of the design. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

Masi said Josephine was a devout Catholic and helped instill the faith in him. Through visiting these churches, the memory of her lingers on.

“I think she would be very proud of me,” he added. “Thinking that it’s better that he found Jesus than jail.”

Masi said he grew up in an interfaith home, with a Catholic father and an Episcopalian mother, who he said “dragged him kicking and screaming” to Lutheran church services. 

“Growing up, church was not exactly on my list of things to do,” he said. That changed when he was in high school, when he followed his father to a Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

“I followed my father to the Catholic Church and I never looked back. I’ve been more happy ever since,” Masi said.

As he travels across the country visiting and photographing cathedrals and basilicas, Masi makes an effort to learn their histories. Sometimes priests catch him photographing their churches and offer him tours. 

That is how he learned that the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles was designed in a more modern architectural style, to be more resistant to earthquakes, and how the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis — his personal favorite of all those he has photographed to date — has one of the largest mosaic collections in the world.

Masi snapping a photo of the altar and cross located at the front of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. He lines up the cross in the center of the image to make it the focal point. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

Masi, a self-described amateur photographer who works at a Connecticut-based public relations firm, said he doesn’t sell his photos, but rather he posts them to his Flickr and Instagram sites, @the.catholic.photographer.

Masi’s ultimate goal, he said, is to take people “on a virtual tour” of elegant religious structures they might not be able to ever see for themselves.

“I feel a sense of gratefulness to my Catholic faith for drawing me to these places. Without my faith, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said.