Two Churches, Mount Adams, Cincinnati, Ohio

We’ll look at the two Catholic churches on Mount Adams in more detail today; they perhaps could not have more prime locations on the heights of the promontory, securing sites long before the development of the neighborhood around them. First up is the former Passionist monastery of the Holy Cross which served the Irish population on the hill. The monastery was founded in 1871, and the church you can see in the Romanesque Revival style seems to be from 1895.

It reminds me of churches I’ve seen in Italy sitting high on hills over cities. It closed in the 1970s, and the monastery is now apartments.

I was excited to discover the front door unlocked, but was surprised to see the interior of the church as been converted into a banquet space. Much of the original furnishings have been stripped away, but there are some frescoes or murals left. It actually again reminds me of the interior conditions of some Italian churches I’ve visited. The Irish parish of the Holy Cross was combined with Germa Catholic Immaculata, which is more commonly just called the Immaculate Conception.

That church sits a little ways away at a very prominent location with commanding views of the Cincinnati downtown and Ohio River valley.

Dating from 1859 and constructed in a severe Gothic Revival style hewn from rough limestone probably quarried from nearby, the Immaculata is still active.

The staircase is an early Twentieth Century concrete replacement of what had originally been a wood staircase.

The terrace is awash in sunlight, as there is nothing blocking the sun’s rays.

The views are impressive, as well.

You can also look across the river to Newport, Kentucky.

Inside, the groin vaulting is held up with slender, cast iron columns; it is a classic example of a German Hallkirche where there is no transept and the aisles are as tall as the nave.

The massive altarpiece address the dedication of the church, which is the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. The painting cycle, by Johann Schmitt, was confusing at first until I realized it should be read from right to left.

The first painting is the Expulsion from Paradise of Adam and Eve, which is the culmination of the Original Sin. This occurrence in the Book of Genesis is the catalyst for Mary giving birth to Christ, whose Crucifixion atones for the Original Sin.

The next painting depicts the Archangel Gabriel speaking to the father of Mary, Joachim, after he had been expelled from the Great Temple of Jerusalem for being sterile. He is informed that he will have a daughter, Mary, free of sin, or Immaculate in Latin.

The central painting then is the Immaculate Conception, where the Virgin Mary is conceived without sin, thus providing a pure mother for Jesus Christ. The German phrase says, “Mary, conceived without sin, pray for the conversion of this country.”

Next up moving left is the Birth of the Virgin; Ann is the mother of Mary. Ave Maria simply means “Hail, Mary” in Latin.

Finally, on the far left is the Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, which is a scene in the New Testament Apocrypha, where the High Priest realizes how important Mary will be. Note the appearance of the halo.

On either side of the apse are side chapel themes, such as the Annunciation, where again Gabriel appears and tells Mary she will give birth to Christ.

On the right side there is an Assumption, where the Virgin is brought into Heaven by the Trinity. Somehow I accidentally cut off the Holy Spirit. Sorry!

The stained glass windows are very nice, but do not seem to follow any sort of thematic program. The first window is St. Lawrence, who was martyred by being grilled to death. I suspect the window subjects were chosen by donors based off their patron saints.

Here’s an Agony in the Garden.

Here’s another good example of the Immaculate Conception; the oyster shell is easily explained as for centuries it was erroneously believed that pearls were formed by female oysters “without sin” much the same way as Mary was conceived without sin.

Update: Thanks to a reader’s help, the saint below has been identified as St. Cecilia. See an example of the saint depicted in a painting here.

This looks like an Education of the Virgin.

St. Patrick needed a new home when his parish of Holy Cross was closed, so he is now housed here, but he is brought out for his feast day and paraded through the streets.

Here is a view back to the front doors showing the choir loft with the organ.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Sean B says:

    Now the planned locating of those late 19th century church buildings make think about St. Louis City’s Hill neighborhood a bit. Albeit with one erected of religious regions centrally located church building over two. Plus those are some nice photographs for the murals within that Ohio River valley, hillside located, Immaculate Conception church 🙂

  2. Kelly B. says:

    The one stained glass window pic of an unidentified saint is St. Cecilia, the patroness of musicians, which is why she is shown seated at an organ. The window is St. Lawrence is unusual – he is not normally depicted, but the style of the window somehow reminds me of Emil Frei with the rich red. This post makes me all the more interested in seeing Cincinnati than I already am!

    1. cnaffziger says:

      Yes, of course! Thank you!

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