Chicago and St. Louis: Differences in Ecclesiastical Architecture

Recently, while in Chicago, Rob Powers and I drove around looking for all of the churches that I’ve always seen from the interstates and wondered what they were like. One in particular, right down in one of the oldest parts of the city is this church, which I suspect is a Jesuit church since their motto is emblazoned on the front. The aspect of this church that struck me most is that it is in a Baroque Revival Style, which is a revival of the style of architecture I studied in grad school. Typified by often ornate, and extremely dramatic decorations, the Baroque Style was perfected by one of my favorite sculptors and architects, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. You can see an example of his architecture and sculpture in these two posts.

As I was photographing this church, I realized something; Chicago has all sorts of churches inspired by Baroque architecture, but for the life of me, I can’t think of a major church anywhere in St. Louis that is.

I know St. Louis has tons of Romanesque and Gothic Revival churches, and I wonder if it reflects the places in Germany, Italy and Ireland that many immigrants hail in Europe.

Conversely, while the Italy and Germany have plenty of Baroque churches, perhaps Chicago’s large Polish population influenced the construction of Baroque Revival churches, as the country is well-represented in that style. Or perhaps, it simply came down to the taste of the particular archbishops who ruled over the two cities. Personality of patrons has influenced art history throughout the last several thousands millennia, so that may simple be the case here.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris,I am no architect, but your Chicago Church looks really neo-classical with a Neo-baroque cupola on the campanile.St. Louis has one Neo-Baroque church- the Shrine of St. Joseph. It is located at 11th and Biddle and is probably the most glorious church in the city. It was built in 1844. Sunday Mass is at 11 am. There is almost always a tour after Mass. You will not be disappointed. Say hello to me- the current organist when you stop in.Michael

  2. Anonymous says:

    As a native St Louisan, displaced to South Texas, I find your blog a site and sight for sore eyes. I love the views you capture and the beauty you have found in the surrounds of city as varied as its founders and current residents.Love it!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I did a liitle looking. The church you have photographed is St. John Cantius. It is described in Wikipedia as being "Polish Cathedral Style" and " High Renaissance Style" architecture.The architect of St. John Cantus, Adolphus Druiding designed some St. Louis churches: The Rock Church, St. John Nepomuk, St. Agatha and THE SHRINE OF ST. JOSEPH.Michael

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