Monday, December 07, 2009

St. George's Chapel

St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle looking Christmassy for a Knights of the Garter ceremony.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Springfield Cathedral Restoration Update

Aside from a few obvious botches, Conrad Schmitt has done their usual outstanding work.

The font in the middle looks silly (and silly is not good for a Cathedral). Chopping up the pews is a complete waste of money (and provides less seating). Is the communion rail still there? Anyone from Springfield?

The project isn't as bad as I had assumed, of course, given that there was approximately zero public input on anything but writing checks for the project, I think it is quite safe to assume that the lack of information was intentional.

Here's Immaculate Conception in all its glory from Mark Scot Abeln.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ralph Ellison Campus

This design site claims to be showing a rehabbed Archdiocese Building (funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, no less). Beautiful building, reasonable addendum. Can anyone tell us what Parish campus this was?

Site Here

Union Square

High Gothic First Baptist looks quite majestic in this photo essay on Chicago's Union Square Neighborhood.

Read more here

Also enjoy the William Gilman house from the same essay

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Buy This Book: Celebrate St. Louis

Long term friend of the Society of St. Barbara, Mark Scott Abeln has done it. His fantastic photos of Churches and liturgical elements have made it into print, and I cannot wait to get a copy.

Click here to see some samples

Click here to purchase

Here is the Press Release




William B. Faherty SJ Teams with Photographer

Mark Abeln to Capture Regional Catholic Heritage

ST. LOUIS, MO—The history of the Catholic Church in St. Louis is dominated by strong personalities and architectural grandeur. In Catholic St. Louis: A Pictorial History, rich text and photography capture the people and places that have defined Catholicism in a historic, and historically Catholic, city. Renowned historian William Barnaby Faherty, S.J., delivers concise historical sketches of the integral people and the landmark houses of worship; and photographer Mark Scott Abeln captures nearly forty different area churches in majestic fashion. From the eighteenth-century Holy Family Church in Cahokia to the overwhelming Cathedral Basilica to the modern St. Anselm’s in Creve Coeur, St. Louis’s churches are significant, not to mention spectacular. This coffee-table book truly presents Catholic St. Louis in all its splendor.

Look for Catholic St. Louis in bookstores and online. Information is available upon request at or (314) 644-3400.

About the Authors

William Barnaby Faherty S.J. has written more than forty books, including dozens on St. Louis history and the novels Call of Pope Octavian and A Wall for San Sebastian. Mark Scott Abeln is a St. Louis photographer whose collection appears on

Friday, July 31, 2009

Prairie Avenue Bookstore on the Ropes

One of the worlds great bookstores is having some financial flow issues. Here is Blair Kamin on the finances of Prairie Avenue Bookshop.

It really is a great bookstore, and I am not just saying that because they sell the heck out of Heavenly City (and are currently sold out, so I link to Amazon). It is more like a library inside, with collectors editions and print items all over the place. Wilbert and Marilyn Hasbrouck are the proprietors, and are also the most knowledgeable people in Chicago on a variety of subjects, including architecture. Beth Elfrig is a store manager, and also is up to the minute on architectural publishing.

I stopped in today and spoke to both Bill and Beth, who were both busily selling large volumes of architecture books. Prices are slashed 50%. Stock up and save.

The array of titles is bewildering an a little picked over. I conjured up some possible titles that are not selling for my own amusement (and also for the amusement of the store employees).

1) Mediocre Carpentry in Mt. Prospect of the Late 1970's. The Aspinite Edition
2) Home Sewage Diversion: An Introduction to Treating Your Own Wastewater
3) Spanish Colonial Piemaker: The Buildings of Baker's Square
4) Structural Paper Maiche for Northern Climates
5) Ed Dart and the Boredom of Unitarian Worship

Thursday, July 30, 2009

More from Holy Name

Some Good Shots at the Tribune. (After 100+ years of campaigning against the Catholic Church, shouldn't the Tribune be banned from the Cathedral?)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Holy Name Coming Back Strong

First look given to the Tribune, rather than St. Barabara's. The Trib has been so sympathetic to the Church over the years, of course they get first digs.

Now about that altar and the modernism that does not belong in a Gothic Church.....

Link Here

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Papal Blessing in Melrose Park

The Tribune does a reasonable job (please ignore the blasphemy) covering the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Melrose Park, Illinois, and a Papal Blessing bestowed upon Crowns made for Our Lady.

High Masses, Coronations, Processions and the continuation of a 800 year devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

From the Chicago Tribune


When parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Shrine in Melrose Park decided to create gold crowns for statues of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, they donated to the cause by reaching deep into their hearts and memories.

Joe Rosa gave his grandfather's wedding band. Corinne Principe wept as she slipped her own wedding ring off her finger. Antonio Godinez removed the big Jesus medallion he wore close to his heart and plopped it into a collection basket.

In all, 15 pounds of gold was given, including a dozen gold watches, several rings, bangle bracelets, earrings, chains and medals. Carrying out a religious tradition from Southern Italy, the donated gold was then melted down and molded into two new 14-karat gold crowns appraised at $75,000.

The call for jewelry went out last July during the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and brought donations not only from the parish but from Italian Catholics across the nation. Struck by the devotion, the pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Rev. Claudio Holzer, e-mailed the Vatican to request a papal blessing for the crowns.

Few expected a response. But within a week, a Vatican aide approved and asked that the crowns be brought to Rome. Last month, Holzer and 35 parishioners traveled to Italy for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI where he blessed the crowns."This is very emotional for all of us," said Principe, who has been married for 41 years. "I didn't think twice about giving my wedding ring. I wanted a piece of me to be with her always, so she could pray for me and my family."

On Sunday, the Melrose Park church will hold a historic mass as it crowns the 5-foot statue of "La Madonna del Carmine" and the baby Jesus that she holds in her left palm. After a procession that takes the Madonna statue through the streets, three Chicago archdiocesan bishops will celebrate a pontifical high mass, which will be broadcast live on EWTN, the global Catholic network.

Only three other images of the Virgin Mary have been crowned with Pontifical Authority: Our of Lady of Mt. Carmel in New York City's East Harlem; Our Lady of Perpetual Help in New Orleans; and the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Madonna De La Flora

As opposed to my own shaky photography, Mark Scott Abeln just keeps getting better at photo documentary of Church objects, icons, and architecture. Here Mark chronicles a Corpus Christ Procession in St. Louis, including this stunning shot of an Marian homage.

Take a look over there at Rome of the West, the visuals are brilliant.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

DMac on St. Michael's, Leawood

From CMR

The new Church of Saint Micheal the Archangelin Leawood, Kansas will be dedicated on Saturday June 13, and many of its features have been chronicled here on CMR. The church is clearly part of the "New Classicism"movement which has been growing over the last 20 years or so, mostly in secular buildings. But one of the things that sets the new St. Michael church apart from other new churches is its decidedly eschatological orientation, that is, its look toward the end of time when the application of Christ's victory is complete. This notion of "turning toward" the Lord's Second Coming has traditionally been the justification for the eastward orientation of churches and the ad orientem position of the celebrant, and the source for what that Second Coming might look like has always been the Book of Revelation.
At the new St. Michael Church, the rear wall of the sanctuary is filled with a triumphal-arch like reredos in which will be placed three paintings, all by EverGreene Studios of New York (shown here in the studio in process and below before installation in two pieces--click for larger views).
The central piece is a 24 foot tall great image of Christ reigning on the throne surrounded by angels and saints described in Revelation chapter 4 and the river of the water of life flowing from the throne in chapter 22. The great eye of the Father who sees and knows all is shown sharing an intersecting halo with Christ who reigns in glory despite his wounds. The night sky reveals the heavens filled with glorified stars, praising God by obeying His will.
From below the throne flows the water symbolizing the Holy Spirit, the water of life (grace) which transforms the world. The water flows down inside the golden walls of the Heavenly Jerusalem, then upon the earth to transform it with grace. In the Leawood mural, the waters flow straight down behind St. Michael, the patron of the parish, than across the many saints, around the altar of reservation, to the sanctuary below. St. Michael is shown in the time after he has slayed the dragon, and he holds in his hands a scale representing the judgment of souls. (The saved soul "weighs" more than the damned). The parish chose the blesseds and saints for the mural, emphasizing the saints of the Americas and the 20th century like the Jesuit martyrs, KiriTekakwitha, Mother Cabrini, Mother Seton, Kathrine Drexel and Miguel Pro.
Interesting to note is two intersections of the heavenly world with the earthly. The "streets" of heaven in the mural have the same pattern of marbles as does the actual floor of the church, symbolizing that the earthly church building is indeed a sacrament of heaven. Second, a close look at the mural shows that among the buildings of heaven is a glorified version of Kansas City's Power and Light Building, a landmark of the downtown skyline. This building was added to remind worshippers that the end of time will not sweep us away to some Platonic other world on clouds, but will restore and renew the real, physical world.
In the small roundrels to either side of the central panel will be placed images of Old Testament figures: Elijah and Moses on the right and Abraham and Sarah on the left. Though they appear in separate openings, all three of the paintings share the same background, suggesting that the triumphal arch is not so much fixed to the wall as it is an opening to the heavenly realm.
Notice how different this sort of iconography is from the usual arrangement of "Mary on one side, Joseph on the other, and a crucifix in the middle." Here we see the Trinity, angels, saints, and creation being joined by the earthly worshippers to praise God and receive Christ-life in the sacraments. By looking at the heavenly glory as well as receiving the heavenly food, the process of divinization is emphasized as a full liturgical event.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Major New Release on Church Architecture

The Society of St. Barbara is delighted to announce the release of Catholic Church Architecture and the Sprit of the Liturgy, authored by our own contributor Prof. Denis McNamara.

Here Denis encourages "the reader to drink deeply from the wells of the tradition, to look with fresh eyes at things thought to be outdated or meaningless, and glean the principles which underlie the richness of the Catholic faith"

Distribution is expected in October of 2009. Pre-order is available now from Liturgy Training Press.Congratulations Denis McNamara on another outstanding work.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Devotion to St. Jospeh; Patron Sant of The Home

Crain's Chicago Business has a marginally thought-out article on the use of St. Joseph icons in home sales. There is a practice of burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard of houses that are for sale.

Crain's polls a few sources for their opinion

"It's tacky; crass marketing," huffs Sister Anne Joan Flannigan, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, which operates the store. "It's making the statue an idol, as if it is magical." (note from JBP...Sr. Anne is a wonderful person, but not very reflective here on the context of Devotion)


Todd Williamson, director of the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Divine Worship, says the church neither endorses nor prohibits the practice — or sale of kits at Catholic bookstores.

"There's no question that some people do that out of faith, others do it out of superstition or may not even know who St. Joseph is," he says.

Both of these opinions strike me as uncharitable at best and sacrilegious under scrutiny. A devotion to St. Joseph should certainly be welcomed by all Catholics and any respectful person who reflects on the history and traditions of Christianity. Surely there are multiple paths to find Christ, none of which should be dismissed as "idol worship" or "superstition". What better way to learn more about St. Joseph than to start with a devotion to Mary's husband?

A good friend of mine from Dwight, Illinois told me the history of the Keeley Institute, an alcohol treatment center that "cured" alcoholics by injecting them with gold dust (perhaps curing them by killing them first). As he stated, a devotion to St. Martin of Tours was certainly a more likely cure than the accepted scientific wisdom at the time.

I'll paraphrase Chesterton's Aquinas on the projection that St. Peter stands at the Gates of Heaven with a list of who is in and who is out. Aquinas said (something like) "Your belief can do no harm and serves the logic of the heavenly kingdom".

I think we have too few devotions today and should welcome more devotions to any and all of the Saints to assist us in our day to day lives.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Douglas Park Auditorium

I drove by this beautiful building in Douglas Park yesterday. The neighborhood is not for the feint of heart, but has some benign neglect showing here and there.

The Douglas Park Auditorium is described as

A multipurpose Jewish institutional building that housed the Workmen's Circle, Jewish labor unions, and the Yiddish Theater. This building was later renamed Labor Lyceum. Today the building is the location of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith.

The Church did not look very busy, but it was a Friday. Architect anyone? I'll wager Marshall and Fox.

Moving Post Offices: Easy Quiz

2 Points if you can tell us where (much of) the Old Chicago Post Office Building is now located. It is a major landmark, but not a Post Office anymore.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Bargain at Any Price

One of the side effects of an housing crisis (of sorts) is that houses stay on the market longer. Here are a few that I have walked through in the last 6 months or so on Sunday strolls with my kids.

The first one is at 232 Essex in Kenilworth. Georgian, with a dramatic entrance (and some huge crest over the entry portal like the hall to a Order of Malta Palace)

The grand entry way looked imposing. My daughter asked if princesses walked down those stairs, which is most likely true.

The bathroom had an interesting ceiling, with some type of plastic material that I had never seen before. It was an art-deco type.

The sunny library looked excellent for a spring nap. The ceiling again was above and beyond the typical.

Here is more info from the broker

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Classicism in Chicago

Here's a terrific house under construction in Chicago.

The Architect is Hammond Beeby Ainge, but that is about all the information we have on it.

Good looking place. Anyone have more details?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Basilica of Dreams: St. Francis Xavier, Dyersville, Iowa

WP Kinsella based his novel "Field of Dreams" in Dyersville, Iowa, a fitting place for building a historic structure that would bring out the best in devotional interest. Kinsella wrote about a shrine to baseball, but in reality, Dyersville is the home a truly remarkable structure, the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier. I was lucky enough to get to visit SFx this weekend, and came away impressed.

Built in 1888 by German (along with Luxemborgian) immigrants, this may be the smallest town in the US with a Basilica, as it was named by Pius XII in 1956. Seating capacity is 1200 (including the choir loft). I was informed that 850 people were at mass on Saturday at 4PM vigil, which was an average crowd (for a parish holding 5 Masses). A little math, that makes 4,250 people per weekend in a town of 4,000. Give or take 10% tourists, and this is a well-uitlized parish.

Excellent architecture historical profile here

There is humorous stained glass of St. Francis Xavier and the "Indians", in Iroquois looking garb. This is a must see Church, explemplifying the best in Catholic Architecture and preservation of the sacred.

The Basilica is about 20 miles west of Dubuque, which also has it's share of fine churches, and 40 miles from Galena, which is an architectural gem.

Dyersville is a small city with an active Catholic Community, with a tremendous churchgoing population, as well as a Catholic High School (Beckman) and Grade School (SFx).

A round of applause to the Community of St. Francis Xavier!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Voting Out the Vandals: Wilmette vs. Village Trustee

Some of my neighbors are campaigning against one of the Village Trustees who mangled the Mallinckrodt Convent project here in Wilmette. I don't like to take political positions on local issues at St. Barbara's but I will make an exception against the desecration of the sacred. Here is a pretty good run down

Four candidates have filed for three openings in the April 7th election to the Wilmette Village Board. The good fortune that this election is contested emanates from the move to re-elect one of the most controversial and destructive members of the board: Lali Watt.

Remember the Mallinckrodt (debacle)? Wilmette kool-aid drinkers back in 2001 swallowed Lali Watt’s community organizing arguments and voted to pay $24 million for a 17-acre park the village didn’t need. There were the Catholic voters who were promised retention of the historical chapel at Mallinckrodt College (since demolished); the soccer parents who were promised lighted fields (never happened), and the senior citizens who were promised a thriving senior housing complex - which has been in foreclosure since last September, owes $19 million on its loans and reports half of the units unsold. And lest we forget, there were the greenies who voted to save the trees. Remember waking up one morning to the front lawn on Ridge that was a muddy wasteland cleared of ancient trees? Yes, it was Trustee Lali Watt we have to thank for the secret deal with the Mallinckrodt developers (before the election) to clear cut all those beloved trees.

I'll vote against anyone who tears up Chapels. This project was botched and in many respects unethical. Everyone associated with it should be held accountable, which for a Trustee, is via the ballot box.

Here's some of the Stained Glass salvaged for sale.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dr. McNamara at ICKSP

Canon Matthew Talarico, Vice-Rector of the Institute of Christ the King is certainly one of the most pleasant guys in Cook County. At a recent function earlier this month he took me aside and said "there is someone you must meet" coming to the Shrine later this month for a presentation.

That someone, was none other than Dr. Denis McNamara from the Litrugical Institute at Mundelein Seminar coming to the Shrine for his brilliant presentation on architecural and the sacred Liturgy. I assured Canon Talarico that I was one of Denis biggest fans.

So today is the day, 3PM on the delightful South Side of Chicago at 6415 South Woodlawn Avenue. All are invited!

Monday, February 23, 2009

St. Thomas the Apostle

February 22, 2009
Originally uploaded by fotomattic
Very nice photo of St TtA in Hyde Park, architect was Barry Byrne.

With Larger Shot

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More Photos from Holy Name

More photos from Holy Name Cathedral, from the 1949 book 100 Years: The History of the Church of the Holy Name.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Postcard from Holy Name

Here is another view of Holy Name Cathedral, this from the Curt Teich archives. I have a better scan of this somewhere, and will locate and post.

Thanks to Msgr for the link.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Holy Name Cathedral Vintage 1958

Here is a historic shot of Holy Name in 1958. I will try to find more.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Holy Name Update

I went to the Cathedral (Holy Name) yesterday. The fire was pretty much contained to one area of the roof. There were still a troop of firemen (smoking cigarettes and theorizing) who did a very fine job at not wrecking the Cathedral while putting the fire out. Fr. Matt Compton, formerly of my parish, and a Mundelein Seminarian studying with Denis McNamara was one of the heroes of the fire and has a new appreciation of St. Agatha the patron of protection against fire.

Here are a few snapshots.