Holy Name Cathedral and Three Churches, Chicago

We’ll dive into our tour of Chicago, which hasn’t seen a post since January of 2015, by first looking at Holy Name Roman Catholic Cathedral and several other noteworthy churches. I visited six cathedrals on this most recent trip, three archdioceses, three dioceses, and was able to view the interior of three.

The original Holy Name was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1871patr, so eminent and prolific church and cathedral architect Patrick Charles Keely of Brooklyn designed a new building to replace the old one.

It’s a classic French Gothic Revival church, and perhaps not a huge as one would expect for such a huge city such as Chicago, the third largest metropolitan area in the United States. The interior, which was not open on multiple occasions when I stopped by on this recent tour but have seen in the past, is quite beautiful.

Moving to the northeast and landing on bustling Michigan Avenue, we arrive at Fourth Presbyterian Church, constructed in 1912, also in the Gothic Revival style.

Constructed when this was a residential neighborhood, the church is now surrounded by soaring skyscrapers and retail right up to its front doors.

An elegant cloister surrounds a verdant green courtyard to the south of the church itself,

Inside, presumably oak beams hold up a painted vaulted roof that stretches down the high altar of the church. There had just been a performance of some kind right before I visited.

Back outside, the cloister is a pleasant respite from the noise of the shopping along the Magnificent Mile.

Heading down south to the Loop, the original plat of the city of Chicago and now the primary business district, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church sits buffeted by tall skyscrapers on either side, operated by the Franciscan Order. I looked at its exterior way back in June of 2008.

Obviously there was an earlier church on the site, with a history going back to 1846; that building in a different location even survived the Great Fire. The current church, designed by Karl Martin Vitzthum and John J. Burns, opened in 1953, and is an interesting intersection of the Gothic and Modernist styles. In fact, I would almost call it Art-Deco.

St. Peter’s is a mission church, meant to serve office workers and tourists who flood the Loop every day of the year.

While there are the standard stations of the cross below, up above in the highly lit white alcoves are scenes from the life of St. Francis; the Franciscans have been associated with the church since 1875.

They’re actually much easier to see in real life!

Finally, we’ll head deep south to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, where an English Gothic Revival tower is spotted high above the trees.

This is the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, which is one of the largest “chapels” I’ve ever seen in my life!

Designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, it opened in 1928, and not surprisingly it was built with funds donated by John D. Rockefeller, whom we’ll be talking a lot about when we get to Cleveland.

It’s an interesting design in that the windows do not fully engulf the Gothic arches created by the (obvious) steel frame that provides structural support for the building, as there are no flying buttresses that would clearly be needed otherwise to hold up such a large church. The engaged buttresses seem almost decorative.

The transepts are relatively restrained and truncated.

The crossing tower, which we saw earlier, is typical of the English Gothic, though these towers, such as at Salisbury often soared much higher into a tall spire. This perhaps reminds me more of Durham Cathedral.

That apse or choir in the back is sort of hulking.

One Comment Add yours

  1. W. White says:

    Rockefeller Memorial Chapel’s design and construction took a decade, from 1918 to 1928. Its appearance is no accident. Goodhue was beginning a stylistic shift, taking him away from the academic Gothic Revival of his former partner and rival Ralph Adams Cram to a more modernist interpretation based on mass and volume (compare Rockefeller Memorial Chapel to its contemporary, Cram’s Princeton University Chapel). Had he not died in 1924 at the relatively young age of 54, Goodhue’s career would have likely gone in a direction similar to his friend Paul Philippe Cret.

    Also, for more information about St. Peter’s in Chicago, I would encourage you to read “History of Saint Peter’s Church, Chicago, Illinois” written by the Franciscan Fathers of St. Peter’s Church and published in 1953 by Franciscan Herald Press. It is filled with photographs of the new church during and immediately after construction and the old church, which was located at Clark and Polk, not at the new church’s location.

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