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Uniquely Utah: Ralphael’s 'Christian School'

Posted at 10:15 PM, Nov 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 00:15:08-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A building unlike any other can be found on the 1300 South block of State Street in Salt Lake City.

Bits of statuary and signage which read “Christian School” and “Ralphael’s Church School” offer only small hints at what’s inside.

For the past 50 years, Ralphael Plescia has been transforming nearly every surface of the space with his paintings and sculptures. Most of the art pays tribute to religious figures and stories. Some, like St. Bernadette, are well-rooted in history and tradition, while others seem more unique to Ralphael’s own interpretation or understanding.

Ralphael has even expanded the building over the years to accommodate his growing collection of creations. An addition up top features a well-lit room complete with angelic-looking faces painted onto the ceiling. Among them is the likeness of Ralphael’s father, who handed the use of the building over to his son in 1970 after relocating his auto parts store elsewhere.

His father’s will indicates the building will eventually, upon Ralphael’s death, be donated to the Shriner’s Hospital.

This leaves the future of Ralphael’s work up in the air.

While individual pieces of art could certainly be moved, at this point, the building itself is the art.

Visitors were welcome in years past, but the ongoing pandemic and a growing number of homeless people outside have kept Ralphael and his devoted wife Rae rather busy.

The best way to get a brief tour of Ralphael’s sanctuary is to watch the video.