Monday, December 31, 2007

St. Xavier's School 29th and Wabash

Here is St. Xavier Academy from 1872, a Gem on the near south side run by the Sisters of Mercy since 1846. This photo from 1946, probably a bit past the heyday for the school, which thrived in the early 1900's.

St. Xavier Academy became St. Xavier University on the Southwest Side. Hales Franciscan sits on the current campus (check that!), in a modern simple building.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Coronation! Statue of Christ the King Placed on South Side Altar

Institute of christ the king
Originally uploaded by jbpo

In one of the more sublime ceremonies I have ever attended, The Institute of Chirst the King grandly and beautifully celebrated the installation of The Infant Jesus of Prague in its high altar in the main chapel at The Institute of Christ the King. His Eminence, Cardinal Francis George presided at the installation.

Quoting Msgr Schmitz, "God's Providence" brought around 650 pilgrims to the South Side of Chicago on a blustery winter day to fill the main chapel (as well as the choir loft, aisles, entryway) . A High Mass with Chorale Music enlightened the Chapel with 90 minutes of most pleasant sound, and solemn grace.

As my 4 year old daughter asked when the gloriously robed priests, Monseignors, and Cardinal walked up the aisle, "Is this the part where the King comes in?" The simple answer is resounding: Yes.

Update: More photos and support opportunities here. This is a great place, please give generously.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holy Family at 150

Both the Tribune and the SunTimes have surprisingly pleasant articles about Holy Family Church in today's papers. The O'Leary/Cow story is rehashed to please the tourists, but the point is still on the Church.

Great friend of the Society of St. Barbara, the incomparable Fr. George Lane is quoted at length on the parish history and the mission of the Jesuits in Chicago. That's Fr. Lane in the attic at Holy Family, identifying some glass donated by the Comiskey family.

There are more photos at the Tribune, they are very good.

"Cardinal Francis George will say mass in honor of Holy Family Catholic Church's 150th anniversary at 9:45 a.m. Sunday in the church, 1080 W. Roosevelt Rd.

An open house will follow from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at which a restored historic processional banner dating to 1861 will be displayed, along with a collection of hand-carved gilded wooden angel statues dating to the 1870s and a collection of chalices, gold monstrances, candlesticks and church vestments brought from Paris in 1863."

The SunTimes article here

The Tribune Article here

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Coronation of Christ the King

A most beautiful invitation arrived with our Christmas Cards from the Institute of Christ the King at 6401 S. Woodlawn in Chicago. His Eminence, Cardinal Francis George will preside at the Solemn Coronoation of the Statue of Christ the King at the former St. Gelasius (and former St. Clara) Church in Chicago's Hyde Park/Woodlawn Neighborhood.

The Main Chapel at the Institute of Christ the King will be open for this historic ceremony, and mass will be celebrated in this Chapel for the first time in many years.

All are welcome at 1:30 PM this Saturday December 29, 2007.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Diocese of Des Moines in Full Color

In the name of St. Nicholas, my very thoughtful in-laws bought me a pictorial history of the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, one of my favorite trips this year (along with La Crosse Wisconsin, Dubuque Iowa and Davenport Iowa).

The Des Moines Diocese stretches from Central Iowa to Southwest Iowa. Some highlights

St. Joseph Earling, Iowa, High Gothic 1882 Church with 150ft Bell Tower. German-American Style at its best, generally in tact.

St. Joseph Winterset, Iowa (John Waynes hometown). Early (1911) Spanish/Mediterranean Arts and Crafts style exterior, unfortunately interior looks whitewashed.

St. Patrick's Irish Settlement Iowa, Literal Prairie Style from 1868. Site of John Paul II papal visit in 1979. Serenely simple design.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

St. John's at Newman Hall Champaign

All websites should be this beautiful and detailed. The stained glass at St. John's Chapel at Newman Hall is profiled in detail on

St. John's Stained Glass

There is something powerful going on at Newman. Take a look around the website. Having survived the 1980's at Newman Hall with only a few scratches, I attest to highly spirited (in every sense of the word) experience living with 400 other wound-up Catholics under one roof.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Driehaus Has Done it Again

Richard Driehaus, The Patron of Traditional Architecture has made another superb prize award for the 2008 Driehaus Prize. This time Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the husband-and-wife team who lead the Miami firm Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ), have been named the recipients of the sixth annual Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture. They will receive $200,000 and a model of the Choregic Monument of Lysikrates during ceremonies March 29 in Chicago.

Yes, you read that right, $200,000. Mr Driehaus has doubled the winnings from $100K to $200K. Mr. Driehaus, may your generousity be rewarded with a continuation of the Architectural Tradition of the Classics.

Three Cheers for DPZ and Richard Driehaus!

Also, Roger G. Kennedy, the National Park Service director under President Clinton for four years, will receive the $50,000 Henry Hope Reed Award.

Not shabby at all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is Helmut Jahn the Worst Major Architect Practicing Today?

I am excluding Frank Gehry, who is more of an unbearable artist, but for unbuildable, unworkable architecture, Helmut Jahn is the bottom of the charts. A trip to the Thompson Center recently clinched it for me. The miserable predicament of the people working there is complimented by the miserable architecture...massive unknowable spaces, strange angles insulting the eye, and a genuine inhumanity built to annoy visitors and workers alike.

I don't think it is any secret that Jahn's works are notoriously hard to build, with the purpose of the building disguised behind a unpleasant architectural facade. You might argue that the State of Illinois is an unpleasant architectural facade, so the Thompson center is perfectly unpleasant. On the other hand, couldn't we use a bit more pleasant State, rather than continuing with the prison motif in our downtown buildings?

Well, if you thought you had enough Jahn in Chicago (and who hasn't?) the newly rich Salvation Army announced an astounding $220 Million Community Center planned for the Pullman neighborhood, to be designed by none other than...Helmut Jahn. Read more about it here at the Chicago Daily Observer

The Salvation of Helmut Jahn

Any thoughts out there on stopping this massive waste of resources for heretofore decent organization? Can we keep Jahnism out of Ecclesiology?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sacred Heart Re-Dedicates Chapel

The Society of the Sacred Heart, founded Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, has re-opened the Chapel at Sacred Heart School on Sheridan Road in Chicago.

The Tribune has a reasonable article here

The Sacred Heart Academy, founded in 1876 (on Dearborn) then moving at State and Chicago Avenue adjacent to Holy Name, also houses Hardy Prep, a boys school.

Congratulations to Sr. Maxwell on restoring the liturgical brilliance to the Sacred Heart Academy.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Small Altar Glory

This is a small glorious altar from the Sacristy in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. I was privileged to tour the Cathedral last week.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Catholic Mass at First Congregational Church Evanston

Tallmadge and Watson's First Congregational Church of Evanston was site of a beautiful performance of Franz Schubert's Mass in G, featuring a Chancel Choir, Soloists, and a String Quartet.

All around it was very well done, though I note that Tallmadge and Watson are not exactly the Prairie Style Architects they are made out to be, rather they are great American Arts and Crafts Architects in the manner of Daniel Burnham and Joe McCarthy.

Still trying to explain how a religion that denies it has a creed can so beautifully celebrate Schubert's "Credo in G", but I will leave that for another day.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Denis McNamara at Loyola University

Loyola University with Mundelein College, The Sullivan Center, and Madonna de La Strada is a great setting for Dr. Denis McNamara to speak about "Faithful Architecture: Catholic Thought, Catholic Buildings". The Chapel at Loyola University has enough mixed up architecture to both love and question parts of the building, yet admire the energy and imagination that went into making this modern marvel.

Come on over to the (Soviet Looking) Sullivan Center tonight at 7PM tonight to hear Denis illuminate the Built Liturgy via his enlightened lecture.

Here is a shot of the great Art-Deco Mundelein College next door to the Sullivan Center.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Joseph Molitor's Passionist Monsatery to Close

The Holy Cross Province of the Passionists, at 5700 N. Harlem Avenue in Chicago have put their Monastery up for sale. The Monastery, built in 1904, was designed by legendary Chicago Architect Joseph Molitor, who also made the gems SS Cyril and Methodius, and Holy Cross (a featured Church in "Heavenly City").

The Monastery resembles others from that time period, such as Barat College, and Loyola Mallinckrodt, however, the chapel was de-beautified in some post 1968 madness, weakening the historic significance of the structure.

I propose this: If it is sold and torn down, please let the Passionists (as opposed to the Nuns at Barat and Loyola Mallinckrodt) get paid for their property. If it can be preserved, how about using the Monastery as a public space?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Tune in to some Classic Rock

One of the great traditions of Catholicism is the Liturgy of Brick and Stone, The Built Liturgy or Classic Rock (pardon the bad joke). There is no greater Traditional "Rocker" than our own Denis McNamara from the Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary's of the Lake in Mundelein Illinois, who has been tapped to speak on Catholic Architecture on Relevant Radio today at 4pm on the Drew Mariani Show.

That is 820 AM in Chicago, 100.1 FM in Milwaukee, and 930 AM in the Western Suburbs of Chicago, as well as available on the internet and many other local affiliates.

Denis is always enlightening, essentially entertaining, and even sticks to the point when he is speaking on the air. Tune in and learn more about the built version of the Liturgy.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Flying Benedictine

Towering over the near south side, St James is a magnificent limestone 1870's era Church, with all the incumbent structural issues of a lumber framed, stone veneered building. Today, Fr. Ed Lytton, OSB, led an inspection of the exterior stone, and architectural adornment, shown here outfitted in safety harness.

The Society of St. Barbara would like to begin a project at St. James to get this in shape. Drop me a line, the Church and the church both need you:

By the way, that is not an optical illusion. The crane/man-lift really is up to the top of the steeple at St. James, with Fr. Ed and an Engineer on board.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Green Square for Irish Church

Old St. Patrick's the well preserved Irish stalwart on the near west loop, has proposed a rather brilliant park to be constructed in the rather simple (but pleasant) lot across Des Plaines Avenue.

I think this really adds to the Parish Complex, which already includes a rectory, St. Francis Xavier Warde school, and the (ugh) Archives of the Archdiocese.

There is also a new statue of "Grainne" (Grace in Gaelic) donated by the City of Galway, Ireland to the Parish, certainly gracing this gem in the face of rather Soviet looking block. Well Done!

HT Lynn Becker

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Basilica's Please: St. John's, Des Moines Iowa

As always, the Society of St. Barbara celebrates Basilica's, even in unlikely places, like the Basilica of St. John the Apostle, near the (United Church of Christ) Drake University Campus in Des Moines.

The architects were from McGinnis and Walsh of Boston, who also designed the National Shrine in Washington D.C. found on the campus of Catholic University. This Basilica, in Lombardy Romanesque style, is a fine white Indiana Limestone building with a red French clay tile roof. I attended a very traditional mass at the Basilica last week, celebrated by Priests of the Order of St. Benedict.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

La Crosse Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

My family visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe two weeks ago. Notre Dame Professor Duncan Stroik and company designed the place, while local architects and builders are making it the splendid structure you see here.

Sister Christa Marie, FSGM, showed us around the building site. We had breakfast at the reception hall, which was very good. This is the first installation of stained glass

The dome is pretty well finished. Much of the painting is also complete.

July 31, 2008 is the planned opening date.

This is an awesome project. I encourage anyone interested to travel to LaCrosse to take a look, leave a donation, and enjoy the prayerful setting.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Vote Bohemian

American Express has a novel program to protect and celebrate American architecture, they are calling Partners in Preservation. The idea sure sounds like a pleasnt one, in sort of 1960's radio contest way: Amex will donate $1 Million to the upkeep of a Chicago area landmark, based on the leader in number of votes on their website to maintain the landmark (it also sounds a bit like the SNL skit where callers voted on whether to boil a live lobster or not).

John Mallin is the premier ecclesiastical mural painter in the United States. He did work all over the Archdiocese of Chicago, following Henry Schlacks with his finishing touches to Schlacks Churches. One of his finest works, however, was not at a Catholic Chapel, rather at the non-denominational Bohemian National Cemetery Chapel at Pulaski and Foster in Chicago.

There are many fine architectural works that Amex is considering for support. I campaign here for the BNC and the restoration of the John Mallin paintings (they are in rough shape), with the following criteria:

1) Landmarks such as the Robie House are supported by the Multi-Billion$ University of Chicago endowment, and have no need for additional funds.
2) Landmarks, such as the Humbolt Park Stables, are supported by the Chicago Park District, and have huge maintenance budgets, albeit, maintenance that is sometimes skipped for more pressing needs like Chicago style political shennanigans.
3) John Mallin lived a very long time, and was still producing classical artwork in the 1960's when the rest of the world had given up on 2000 + years of tradition in exchange for Roy Lichtenstein. We need more artists such as Mallin to uphold the fine arts regardless of the prevailing artistic norms.
4) There is not a soul in Chicago (or most of the rest of the world) that has not heard of the Unity Temple and Frank Lloyd Wright. Do we really need more promotion of architect (albeit a great one) who built his career on hype and exposure?
So, I urge you, in Chicago style, to vote early and often for John Mallin and the Bohemian National Cemetery in American Express Partners in Preservation contest. $1 Million will go a long way to keeping this gem in tact.

Dr. McNamara and Rev. Baker on DVD

A key member of the Society of St. Barbara has put out a new DVD highlighting some of his work. Now before you think that you already saw all the "Die Hard" series (did Matt Alderman have a bit role in those?) at the theater, think again: this is Denis McNamara along with the Most Rev. R. Baker speaking about prayer and architecture respectivley, in a lecture given to the Institute for Religious Life.

This DVD will help you discover new insight and appreciation for religious architecture when you hear this informative talk, or in the case of this Blog's readers, re-affirm and reinforce your current holdings. There are many good video shots of the beautiful chapel at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, where the talk was given.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

19th Century Version of "New Urbanism"

Went shopping in Valley Junction (Circa 1846) today, the 19th Railroad Stop in southwest Des Moines, Iowa that once hosted 26 passenger trains per day. Commuter trains, street cars, and long distance sleepers all called on Valley Junction, making this neighborhood a thriving competitor to the central business district of the city. Restaurants, boarding houses, fraternal halls, banks and dry goods stores all kept the economy humming here.

The buildings have some fine brickwork, a planned amount of congestion (giving one the impression that the area is very busy, which it is), and a wide variety of shops and stores, all within a short walk of each other. The area is still going strong (though more functional than charming, in many cases), and worth a trip to look at the railcentric layout and fine 19th century building technique.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New Book on Lutyens Published

Just picked this up at Prairie Avenue books, by the Driehaus winner Allan Greenberg. A bit small format, but important information about one of the most influential architects of the last 150 years. He had some Burnham influences, was a grand designer, made New Delhi look imperial, gave more than a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan and made a great deal of stylistic growth (perhaps too much) in his career. Buy it at PA Books.

The unfinished Liverpool Cathedral is one of the missing masterpieces in Architectural History. How would that look in the vacant lot across from Holy Name Cathedral?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

De-Christianizing Wilmette

In an effort to rid Wilmette of any outward signs of Christianity, developers in the Park District sponsored spendall at Mallinckrodt continue to cover any reference to Christ, Mary, or the fact that the Sisters of Christian Charity once had a huge convent and school in Wilmette.
Gone are:

1) The Cross atop the steeple
2) The Chapel, converted to housing units
3) Marian statuary and grottos in the adjoining park
4) Textual reference to Maria Immaculata
5) The beautiful stained glass from the Chapel and porch leading to the chapel
I was involved in trying to maintain the Liturgical Elements from the Chapel; not that I am much good at such things, but this one was outlandish. The building was sold to the developer for a song. The village claimed that they had to remove all Christian symbols from Park District property (Hmm...does LaCrosse Wisconsin need to remove the "Crosse" from its name) An agent of the developer tried to ransom the stained glass to my foundation and a Priest from the west suburbs. The developer claimed he could not make enough money if he did not destroy the chapel (heard that one a few times). The developer then uprooted 20 huge 100 year old trees. The village stepped in to demand "affordable" housing, so that people making 100K+ could get others to pay for their residence.
This is one botched project, and the botch is on the taxpayers of Wilmette and the many generous donors to the Sisters of Charity and Loyola University over the years. (Then the same thing happens in Lake Forest 2 years later).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

If St. Louis is Rome, is Belleville Florence?

Friend of the Society of St. Barbara blog Mark Scott Abeln has some stunning shots of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville Illinois. If you haven't already, please visit his blog at

which showcases one of my favorite cities, St. Louis, in much the same way as St. Barbara's showcases Chicago. Mark posts a series of photos of the

which really make the St. Peter's look awe inspiring. Yes Mark, St. Louis, the Society of St. Barbara considers St. Louis the Rome of the West, but does the analogy make it that Belleville would then be the La Belle Florentine?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

James Morris launches Website

In my opinion, the best architectural photographer in the world, James Morris, has just launched his subtly named portfolio website.

James Morris, photographer

Morris, the photographer of two of my favorite books Heavenly City, the Architectural History of Catholic Chicago, and Londons Churches and Chapels specializes in large format photography, showing such depth of field as the sequence of arches and columns at St. Marks Coptic Church in Egypt, and a series of rectangular doorways from Villa Sarceno in Vincenza Italy (pictured).

I suggest that you get the largest LCD Monitor you can buy, take a long draw from a Guinness, and spend a few hours perusing and enjoying the portfolio of the master of architectural photography.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Gothic Chicago

Gothic Chicago
Originally uploaded by jlurie
From Flickr

Fine shot of Howells & Hood—John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood, Tribune Tower at 435 N. Michigan.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Brooklyn's Cathedral that Never Was

Brooklyn is the ethnic heart of New York Catholicism, a borough whose inhabitants still remember that coming to America needn't mean converting to the comforting blandness of beige Catholicism. A view across the East River shows a low cityscape still dotted with German steeples and Polish domes. With a few notable exceptions, (A San Rocco statue covered in dollar bills followed by a truck filled with small Chinese girls dressed as angels, for instance), all things weird and wonderful in the world of the popularly pious ultimately go back to the Maronites, Italians and Hispanics of the outer boroughs.

While Manhattan may have St. Pat's and Our Saviour's, you won't find the dancing Giglio with its cast of priests and brass bands, or an advertisement for a visit of the Holy Robe of the Infant of Prague to some crusty, dusty church in Queens.

We often forget the borough of Brooklyn was once a whole separate city, and the last hundred years of rule from downtown Manhattan is somewhat of a novelty in the great scheme of things. Indeed, had Bishop Loughlin had his way, Brooklyn would be the home to a behemoth cathedral that would have easily rivalled St. Pat's in sheer bulk. The illustration above is of its facade--a massive, somewhat unremarkable mid-century Victorian Gothic pile, though not without a certain hefty, muscular charm.

Robert A.M. Stern writes in his equally hefty (1,164 pages) New York 1880:
Far and away, the most ambitious church project undertaken in Brooklyn was the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, intended for the block bounded by Clermont, Greene, Vanderbilt, and Lafayette Avenues. A Pugin-inspired version of the Cathedral at Rouen, designed by Patrick C. Keely, it was to have been the second-largest cathedral in the country, exceeded only by New York's St. Patrick's [...], then under construction. [...] As described in 1871, the approach taken by Keely abounded in "clustered shafts, moulded bases, varied statuary, pinnacled and gabled canopies." The cathedral was to have built of blue granite. Two 98-foot-wide, 350-foot-high corner towers were to have marked the 160-foot-wide entrance facade facing Lafayette Avenue, beyond which the 354-foot-long church with its 98-foot-high, white granite nave soaring to a roof framed in oak. The project was extremely ambitious given that the archdiocese had only been in existence for eight years when the site was acquired in 1860, but Bishop John Loughlin was deeply committed to the idea of the cathedral as a beacon for Catholicism in Protestant Brooklyn, as were many laypeople, forty thousand of whom showed up for the laying of the cornerstone on June 21, 1868.
Money soon ran low, and the walls had only creeped up a paltry ten feet before construction was halted. Only one of the church's six chapels, St. John, was completed. The walls and chapel remained until 1931, when they were bulldozed to build a high school named in honor of the late bishop.

One of Loughlin's successors, incidentally, approached Westminster Cathedral designer John Francis Bentley (Keely having died) to figure out what to do with the Cathedral's foundations and stubby walls. Bentley himself visited Brooklyn and began drawings, but the British architect died before Bishop McDonnell could visit London to see the architect's work. The project was shelved, and now the only thing that remains on the site is the former Bishop's residence, now the chancery, which that pompous doorstop The AIA Guide to New York City--at least the 1978 edition--describes as "an orphan asylum for a Charlotte Bronte novel."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Liturgical Art of Leonard Porter

From Creative Minority Report:

The next installment on Creative Minority Report's quest to show who is out there doing good work in the liturgical arts profiles painter Leonard Porter of New York. Porter is part of the under-40 crowd who was trained as a Modernist painter. Some years ago he rejected his Modernist training and taught himself to paint in the classical tradition. His specialty is the painting of scenes from classical mythology, but in recent years has been kept busy doing some religious and liturgical painting. His first large mural (21 feet wide) was for the Sacred Heart Chapel at the Catholic cathedral in Sioux Falls, SD.

This image of Christ Enthroned With Angels and Saints dedicated to the Eucharist and the Sacred Heart earned him great praise from the client and the traditional art community, and beyond Porter's obvious and virtuoso technical skill is a layering of narrative and detail which equals or surpasses any art painted in all of Christian history.

Another of his works is a small devotional painting of St. Dominic's Eighth Way of Prayer. This small 11"x14" painting nonetheless contains an incredible level of detail and layers of symbolic meaning including a background including the Cathedral of Albi, France, the center of the Albigensian heresy which Dominic founded the Dominican Order to combat.

Porter is just now completing another mural for a church in Fort Worth, Texas of Christ enthroned with imagery based on the description of heaven in the Book of Revelation. This mural shows Christ surrounded by the 4 winged creatures and the rainbow, with all of humanity washing clean in the Blood of the Lamb below. Particularly good are Porter's still life symbolic details, like the oil lamp (image of Christ's light) in the shape of a pelican, another image of Christ because the mother pelican was believed to feed her young from the blood of her own breast.