A campaign to “Save the Dome” is underway at St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. Over $3 million is being sought to repair and reinforce the central dome, south tower, and parapet of this magnificent structure.
When it opened in 1920, the local press called St. Mary of the Angels the “finest example of Renaissance Revival architecture in the country.” It was designed by Chicago’s premiere church architectural firm, Worthmann and Steinbach, whose nearby work includes St. Hyacinth Basilica, Holy Innocents Church, and St. Nicholas Ukrainian Cathedral. An impressive entry portico with eight Corinthian columns and a commanding rose window dominate the street. Inside, a soaring 135 foot dome, modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome, is encircled with stained glass windows displaying the twelve apostles. In the sanctuary, above an ornate marble altar, is a mural of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, painted in 1948 by acclaimed church artist, John Mallin.
The Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese has written “In a city of great churches, St. Mary of the Angels is truly a standout, both in sheer size, completeness, and blazingly grand solemnity, a strong presence in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood.” (Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago. 2005)
St. Mary of the Angels was founded in 1899 as a Polish parish by the Resurrectionist priests for the burgeoning Polish immigrant population spilling over from St. Stanislaus Kostka. Rev. Francis Gordon started the building campaign that led to the present magnificent building. With freedom for Poland secured just after World War I, the jubilant crowds at St. Mary’s church on dedication day, May 30 sang the Polish national anthem among their hymns. When St. Mary’s dome began to fail in the late 1980s and the structure was threatened with demolition, old and new parishioners, and other Chicagoans with a love of great architecture, rallied to save it, making it one of the great preservation stories of Chicago’s history. Repairs complete, the church reopened in 1992 under the stewardship of the Opus Dei order of priests.
A LIVING SANCTUARY
For over 100 years, St Mary of the Angels parish has been a gate between Chicago’s neighborhoods and the city’s business center – a steady reminder of God’s presence in our everyday lives. It is a visible landmark to all who travel the Kennedy expressway and attracts many people every year through its regal doors, to pray or to just gaze at its architectural beauty. One of very few city churches open from dawn to dusk, seven days a week, its Sunday Masses are celebrated in English, Polish, and Spanish. St. Mary’s is the perfect place for quiet meditation, prayerful reflection, and joyous praise with its safe, warm, and inviting sanctuary. Next time you’re on Chicago’s Near Northwest side, stop in and see this beauty for yourself, and if you’re so moved, please help at www.savethedome.net
All photos and content by Vicki Granacki