FEATURE image: CIVIC OPERA BUILDING, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago.
Plan of Chicago Authors:
The Burnham Plan, co-authored by Daniel H. Burnham (1846-1912) and Edward H. Bennett (1874-1954) and published in 1909 encouraged making the Chicago River a focal point of building development. By 1929 massive projects including the Merchandise Mart, Chicago Daily News Building (2 N. Riverside Plaza) and Civic Opera Building (above) stood along the intersection of the three branches of the Chicago River that was part of the plan.
The Civic Opera Building is an office building wrapped around its theatres including a 3,563-seat opera house. It is the second-largest opera auditorium in North America after the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. in 1996 the interior was named The Ardis Krainik Theatre in honor of Ardis Joan Krainik (1929-1997), an American mezzo-soprano opera singer and the former General Director for 15 years, who was responsible for its renovation after 1993. The impressive building and its ornamentation was the result of British business magnate and Chicago financier Samuel Insull (1859-1938) who was inspired by the concept of the Auditorium Building with its theatres and offices in a skyscraper-sized building designed by Adler & Sullivan in 1889 at 430 S. Michigan Avenue.
AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Alice Sinkevitch, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, pages 14 and 90.
Chicago’s Famous Buildings, 5th Edition, Franze Schulze and Kevin Harrington, The University of Chicago Press, 2003, pp. 117-118.
FEATURE image: Joan Miró, Joan Miró’s Chicago (sometimes Miss Chicago), steel reinforced-concrete, colored ceramics, 1967, Brunswick Building Plaza, 69 W. Washington Street, Chicago. This artwork is Miró’s only monumental sculpture. Text & artwork photograph by author.
Joan Miró (1893-1983) is a Catalan who is a major dadaist artist “Dada” is a nonsense word but its artistic movement that started around 1915 in Zürich, Switzerland, has brought into existence many famous artworks by a range of artists. As World War I raged on in Europe between 1914 and 1918, young artists and intellectuals reacted with art, performance, and poetry that was radically experimental, dissident and anarchic. These artists countered the horrors of the war and capitalist culture by moving past a degradation of art to contributing to an anti-art under the banner of “dada.” These ideas and ideals of dada quickly spread to the art capitals of Paris and New York – and beyond.
Joan Miró’s Chicago is the artist’s first monumental sculpture in the world.
Joan Miró’s Chicago is in this dada milieu as it sits in the Brunswick Building Plaza, directly across Washington Street from another Spanish artist’s 50-foot-tall Cor-Ten steel sculpture from the same time (1967): Chicago’s Picasso in Daley Plaza. Miró’s sculpture expresses the neck, bustline, and slim and wasp-waisted hips of a woman’s torso with outstretched arms and a simplified head. She is made of steel-reinforced concrete with brightly colored ceramics that are added to the scooped-out hem of her skirt. Like other of Miró’s sculptures of female figures from the 1950s, the shape of the skirt is that of an overturned broad-lipped cup or chalice. The bronze, crown-like headdress is like the dadaist found objects that populated Miró’s artwork whether paintings, sculptures, ceramics and more throughout his career. Joan Miró’s Chicago possesses qualities evocative of primitive fertility or earth goddesses similar to those found in the ancient Mediterranean world.
One of Dada’s major sculptural forms to emerge and which was masterly accomplished by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), was the “readymade” which used familiar mass-produced objects (i.e., ceramic urinals, household tools, etc.) for high art pieces. The dada expression of the readymade increasingly asked the viewer to take seriously these consumer items and found objects as high art on an equal platform with lofty traditional productions of a monied arts establishment.
Dadaists experimented boldly with new media such as collage (Jean Arp, 1886-1966), airbrushed photography (Man Ray, 1890-1976) and nonsensical poetry (Hugo Ball, 1886-1927). These art forms freely combined as well as crossed over its categories, i.e., nonsensical poetry interpreted in performance art.
Miró’s art does not accept the world as it is.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s Miró worked with material such as paper, string and even toothbrushes and, sometime later, natural objects such as rocks and fruits to make loose, playlike assemblies, many of which due to fragility or destruction, did not survive. Miró did not transform or repurpose these found objects – bells, jars, vases – but by leaving them alone saw they retained what the artist called their own “magical powers.” Miró’s more permanent artworks – paintings, ceramics, plaster or bronze sculptures, etc. – possess the same randomness as his looser assemblies which is the artist’s intended reflection of nature’s promiscuous progeny. The artist turns his back on established art principles and pursues his own independence which, following intuition unto slow resolve, improbably marries diverse objects of recognizable forms making for an assembly of more than one class or nature. They are of a realm not always of this world.
Though Miró completed a maquette of the sculpture in 1967 (called Project for a Monument for Barcelona), its production into a 40-foot sculpture – the artist’s only monumental sculpture – was delayed until 1979. The hundreds of thousands of dollars for the production and installation of Joan Miró’s Chicago was provided by a private-public partnership in Chicago.
A Guide to Chicago Public Sculpture, Ira J. Bach and Mary Lackritz Gray, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1983, pp. 73-74.
FEATURE Image: Signage of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago. The church is known as “the birthplace of Gospel music” since Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993) started his first modern gospel choir here in 1931. Author’s photograph, 10/2016 6.06 mb
Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 417.
FEATURE image: FISHER BUILDING, 343 S. Dearborn Street, view from the south. Author’s photograph, December 2017.
The success of the Reliance Building at 32 N. State Street built by Daniel H. Burnham (1846-1912) and John Wellborn Root (1850-1891) in 1890-91 and Burnham & Co. in 1894-95 led directly to the construction of the Fisher Building in 1895.
The Fisher Building was also designed for Burnham & Co. by Charles B. Atwood (1849-1895). The Fisher Building was three stories taller than the Reliance Building and possessed even more flamboyant Gothic detailing as it is sheathed in golden terra cotta on its visible façades.
The Fisher Building’s façade with its depictions of sea creatures in homage to the building’s namesake, Lucius G. Fisher (1843-1916), an Illinois paper company magnate and architect, was painstakingly restored and adapted for contemporary use in 2001. The rectangular prism with its Gothicized ornamentation sits on 25-foot piles under spread foundations engineered by Edward Clapp Shankland (1854-1924).
In the mid 1890’s, the skyscraper was erected quickly with pride. The steel frame’s first 13 stories were erected in two weeks. The building has oriel windows and engaged colonettes at its corner piers. In 1907, a 20-story addition was built to the north by architect Peter J. Weber with Shankland also as structural engineer.
AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Alice Sinkevitch, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, pps. 62-63.
The Sky’s The Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers, Jane H. Clarke, Pauline A. Saliga, John Zukowsky, New York: Rizzoli, 1990, pps. 33-35.
Chicago’s Famous Buildings, 5th Edition, Franze Schulze and Kevin Harrington, The University of Chicago Press, 2003, pp. 82-83.
Frank A. Randall, History of Development of Building Construction in Chicago, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by John D. Randall, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1999, pps. 37 and 164-65.
FEATURE Image: Flamingo by Alexander Calder is a masterwork stabile in Chicago’s downtown. It was unveiled on October 25, 1974 in a dedication ceremony with the artist. It is one of Chicago’s iconic outdoor public artworks. 6/2022 7.73 mb
In downtown Chicago’s Federal Center Plaza on South Dearborn Street between Adams Street and Jackson Boulevard is Alexander Calder’s 53-foot-tall painted steel plate “stabile object” entitled Flamingo. The Chicago Federal Center was completed in 1974 with Calder’s artwork. The design project began in 1958 and included three International-style government buildings by modernist architect Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) within a public plaza design that was completed in 1974. Flamingo, commissioned after Mies’ death for $250,000 by the Government Services Administration, was unveiled on October 25, 1974 with the 76-year-old Calder present for its dedication ceremonies and festivities. With the commission Calder understood the significant impact of his artwork for the Federal Center Plaza in Chicago.
Calder’s prolific and impressive art career started in the early 1920s. Fifty years later, Flamingo (a.k.a., “the Calder”) in Chicago’s historic Federal Center Plaza is a later work, whose maquette Calder made before it was intended for Chicago.
During his artistic career’s many decades and years, Calder never stopped developing in his art. The 1974 steel sculpture painted red-orange is four stories tall and makes a powerful impact on the streetscape where it is an integral part. Along with Chicago’s Picasso in 1967 and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (“the Bean”) in 2004, Calder’s Flamingo in 1974 has taken its well-deserved place among Chicago’s most iconic outdoor public artworks.
From the inventor of the mobile, Calder turned later to the development of the stabile of which Flamingo is a masterwork. Starting in the mid1950s and into the 1970’s, Calder produced scores of stabiles in many shapes and sizes for display around the world.
“Most architects and city planners want to put my objects in front of trees or greenery. They make a huge error. My mobiles and stabiles ought to be placed in free spaces, like public squares, or in front of modern buildings, and that is true of all contemporary sculpture.” – Alexander Calder.
Titled Flamingo, the towering abstracted “Calder red” painted stabile object can evoke reactions to it that are unexpected. Calder’s stabile masterwork was unveiled in October 1974 which was the same year the Sears Tower (in the background) was completed and which was at that time the world’s tallest building (today it is ranked no. 26). From Federal Center Plaza, Chicago’s 20th century architectural history is readily on display in its downtown buildings in a range of shapes, sizes, textures and design styles.
Flamingo can be intimidating because of its monumental size. Actual flamingo shorebirds vary in size, but are usually no more than 3 to 5 feet tall, and weighing about 5 to 7 pounds. At 53 feet tall, Calder’s immense stabile in Chicago is about the size of a giant sauropod dinosaur which could weigh around 60 tons.
Alexander Calder trained and worked as a mechanical engineer before he became an artist. The graceful design and construction of Flamingo is expressed by nearly one-inch-thick steel plates buttressed by ribs and gussets joined overhead by lofty arches and resting on three legs as if it is nearly weightless. Even his largest stabiles (of which Flamingo is one) are made so they can be easily unbolted, and taken apart to be transported and assembled at the place of destination.
In Federal Center Plaza is a complex of three buildings of varying scales by Mies van der Rohe: the broad 30-floor Everett McKinley Dirksen Building at 219 S. Dearborn Street completed in 1964 (at right), the lean 45-floor John C. Kluczynski Building at 230 S. Dearborn Street completed in 1974 (not pictured), and the single-story U.S. Post Office building at 219 S. Clark Street (not pictured). Calder’s Flamingo sits on its three pillars like a lunar lander that reflects the arcaded bases of Mies van der Rohe’s buildings that surround it as well as provide a sweeping contrast of curves and bright stand-out color against the surrounding modernist buildings’ monochrome glass-and-steel grid appearance. Calder’s artwork achieved more than the sum of these parts – it transformed Mies’ overall somber architectural trio into a more dramatic and complex quartet that included Calder’s art. The 30-story Dirksen Building is across Dearborn Street.
Calder’s Flamingo after dark with the one-story Post Office illumined within behind it.
Calder’s stabile is one of the most monumental public art commissions in Chicago. Flamingo’s height and breadth (it fills a space of about 1440 square feet) achieves a largesse that does not forgo a human scale as it allows pedestrians to freely walk around, under and through it. The 45-story Kluczynski Building is at left.
Flamingo lighted at night in late November where there is already a snow pile on the sidewalk in Chicago’s Federal Center Plaza presaging the Chicago winter. In summer months there is a regular farmer’s market on the Federal Center Plaza. It is also the location for a variety of political gatherings year-round.The Kluczynski Building is behind.
In October 1974 Alexander Calder was in Chicago for a “Calder Festival” where two of his major works were being dedicated – Flamingo for Federal Center Plaza (depicted above with the Kluczynski Building) and Universe, a motorized mural for the Sears Tower. Reflecting the artist’s lifetime interest in circuses, Calder joined in the city’s circus-themed parade in his honor. In another major cultural event in Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art held a large retrospective exhibition of Calder’s art from October to December of 1974.
Looking from the Marquette Building south to Calder’s Flamingo in situ in Federal Center Plaza.
FEATURE image: Exterior of Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Church with its gold domes. The tradition-minded parish, founded in early 1970s, serves a busy urban community.
The huge mosaic over the main entrance memorializes the conversion of the Ukrainians to Christianity in 988 by St. Volodymyr of Kyiv or Vladimir of Kiev (957-1015). The mosaic was executed by Hordynsky, Makarenko, and Baransky. The church is built in the modern Byzantine style.
In addition to the colorful and bright mosaic, the upward angle and its perspective adds to the feeling of entering into a sacred space. Along with the archways and curve of the main golden dome, the eye focuses on the artwork’s bright figures.
Who are Sts. Volodymyr and Olha?Their little-known story – which is important to the Ukrainian people and pivotal to European history – is told in some detail immediately follows these photographs.
A beautiful outdoor garden with the residential streets of Ukrainian Village as its background is the setting for the larger-than-life-sized statue of Major Archbishop Josyf Slipyj (1892-1984). He was made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1965 and is a “Confessor of the Faith.” The Founder of the parish, Slipyj blessed the new church building’s cornerstone. Supporting the Ukrainian state and refusing to convert to Russian Orthodoxy, he was continously imprisoned by the Soviet authorities from 1945 to 1963. Through the intervention of St. Pope John XXIII and U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Josyf Slipj was released by Nikita Khrushchev in early 1963 and participated in the Second Vatican Council.Josyf Slipyj died in Rome in 1984 and his cause for canonization as a saint of the Catholic Church has been introduced at the Vatican.
Parishioners praying and going to Communion at Sunday Mass.
With the artists’ skills, the bright colors and evocative forms of the artwork surround churchgoers as they move toward the altar at Communion during the Divine Liturgy.
The colorful and vibrant decorations that include paintings, carvings, vestments, books, stained glass, and more, are integral to the parish’s liturgy and life.
Two women sit before icons of Sts. Volodymyr and Olha and the Blessed Virgin.
Every nook and cranny of the church is decorated with colorful images from religious and Catholic Ukrainian history. The natural light streaking down from the main dome’s windows adds a heavenly glow.
Two female haloed saints in a modern art style are marked by their unique attire as one holds an unfurled scroll with words in Ukrainian. Christianity arrived into Ukraine by way of the Greco-Byzantine world over 1000 years ago.
A painting of the dormition of Mary is emphasized by, above, an icon of Mary and the child Jesus. Colors, forms, and subject matter are very high quality and soft and peaceful making them pleasant to look at and pray with.
The wood carvings and full-length portrait icons are gorgeous. The fresh flower arrangements further brighten the scene.
Visitors are joined by worshippers lighting candles and praying before a large icon of Mary and the child Jesus.
The main altar gate of carved wood with icons and gold curtain. The Last Supper in center above.
Residents and (below) a residence’s porch flower garden in Ukrainian Village near Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Church in Chicago.
Stained glass, paintings, banners, and chandelier blend together and provide a more complete picture of people and episodes of the faith. North wall and ceiling.
High above the sanctuary is a magnificent view of the main dome painted in bright colors with the figure of Christ Pantocrator. Christ gives his blessing as he holds an open book with the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha and omega. It signifies one of Christ as the Son of God’s titles in the New Testament: “I am the beginning and the end” (Revelation, 21:6, 22:13).
Ukrainian Village is a neighborhood first settled by Ukrainian immigrants in the 1890’s. It is about 4 miles to the northwest from downtown Chicago.
Who are Sts. Volodymyr and Olha?
St. Volodymyr is the apostle to proto-Russian and Russian Christianity. He was the great prince of Ukraine in Kiev. It was ruled by the Varangians, a barbarous Viking tribe from Scandinavia – and Volodymyr (or Vladimir) of Kiev was as barbarous as any of them.
In 988, when Volodymyr was about 31 years old, he was converted to Christianity. The missionaries came from the Byzantine world at Constantinople. The results were immediate: Ukraine was now in close contact with the Byzantine world to the south and its Christian church under the pope.
Volodymyr married the daughter of the Byzantine emperor, Basil II (957-1025). But it was Volodymyr’s personal embrace of the Christian faith that infused the Ukrainian people with their deep and abiding faith. Having received baptism, he set out to be a Christian and not corrupted by money and power that proved a serious temptation for many church and state leaders in the Dark Ages.
Volodymyr used his temporal powers to evangelize the people – his personal example his greatest asset to its success. Though he encouraged various activities and programs in the lives of the people – including the multi-faceted work of Greek missionaries – it was his sincere, transparent, and fundamental reform of his own life that by far had the greatest impact on the Ukrainian people. More than one thousand years after his rule, Volodymyr is still recalled as a generous, humble and devout soul.
As a Christian ruler Volodymyr had doubts about inflicting the death penalty. Though assured by his Byzantine church counselors that his Catholic faith allowed him to follow the law which allowed for it, Volodymyr corrected them and said that that sort of reasoning was not satisfactory to his faith.
Volodymyr, the great prince of Kiev, died a poor man – not only various from his origin but, again, that of many of the ecclesiastics now in the realm. Before his death, Volodymyr dispersed all his money and personal belongings to the poor and to his family and friends. St. Volodymyr’s feast day is July 15. He is patron of Ukrainian and Russian Catholics.
Saint Olha was the wife of the Kyivan Great Prince Igor. Igor signed a peace treaty with the Greeks in 944. The treaty of 944 was drawn up at Constantinople and allowed for Christianity in Ukraine. This toleration already indicates some sympathy for Christianity among the powerful in Kiev. Igor himself, however, in his official position did not embrace Christianity nor officially allow the presence of a structure of Church hierarchy. The treaty was drawn up to quietly allow co-existence of Christians in a pagan Viking culture.
Yet when the Byzantine emissaries arrived in Kyiv, pagan opposition had emerged from the Varangians. The Christians were thrown into abeyance and Igor was murdered in 945. Into this volatile situation the burden of government fell upon Igor’s widow — the Kyiv Great-Princess Olha, and her three-year-old son Svyatoslav (945-972). Her first act was to avenge Igor’s murder.
Olha belonged to one of the obscure ancient-Rus’ princely dynasties, whose Slavic line had intermarried with assimilating Varangian newcomers. Olha’s Varangian names includes Helga and Olga.
Though still a pagan, Olha’s revenge on the Varangians on behalf of her late husband was a victory for the realm’s Christians. Further, having weakened the influence of petty local princes in Rus’, Olha centralized the whole of state rule. She became a great builder of the civil life and culture of Kyivan Rus. Her centralization became an important network of the ethnic and cultural unification of the nation which, when Olha became a Christian, aided in the building of a network of churches. Her essential activities proved key in developing what is the modern Ukrainian national identity. At the same time, important trade with Poles, Swedes, Germans, and so forth, led to significantly expanding foreign connections. One noteworthy development was that wooden buildings were replaced with stone edifices.
Rus’ had become a great power. Only two European realms could compare with it in the tenth century – the Byzantine empire in the east, and the kingdom of Saxony in the west. Both these empires were Christianized and pointed the way to future greatness for Rus’. In 954 Great-princess Olha sailed to Constantinople. Though a display of Rus’ military might on the Black Sea, it was a spiritual mission. Olha’s might and the Byzantines’ wealth and beauty were mutually impressive.
Constantinople was the city of the Mother of God as dedicated by Constantine the Great in 330. Olha made the decision to become a Christian. She was baptized by Patriarch Theophylactus (917-956) with her godfather being the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos (905-959). She took the Christian name Helen for Constantine’s mother. Following the rite, the Patriarch said: “Blessed are you among the women of Rus’, for you have forsaken the darkness and have loved the Light. The Rus’ people shall bless you in all the future generations, from your grandson and great-grandson to your furthermost descendants.” Olha replied: “By your prayers, O Master, let me be preserved from the wiles of enemies”. It is precisely in this way, with a slightly bowed head, that Saint Olha is often depicted in religious artwork. During her state visit, and following her baptism, Great princess Olha of Rus’ was fêted throughout Constantinople
Saint Olha devoted herself to efforts of Christian evangelization among the pagans, and also church construction, including Saint Sophia Cathedral. Yet, many despised her new found Christianity and paganism became emboldened. They looked to the reign of Svyatoslav who angrily spurned his mother’s Christianity. Meanwhile Byzantine church and state leaders were not eager to promote Christianity in Rus’. In Olha’s lifetime, Kyiv favored paganism and had second thoughts about even accepting Christianity. By order of Svyatoslav, churches were destroyed and Christians murdered. Byzantine political interests found the church and state looking to undermine Olha’s influence and favored the Rus’ pagans.
Olha attempted to help Svyatoslav during a period of wartime, though Kyiv was a backwater to his imperial interests for the next 18 years. In the spring of 969 the Pechenegs besieged Kyiv and Olha headed the defense of the capital. Svyatoslav rode quickly to Kyiv, and routed the nomads. But the warrior prince wished to rule elsewhere than Kiev. Svyatoslav dreamed of uniting all Rus’, Bulgaria, Serbia, the near Black Sea region and Priazovia (Azov region), and extend his borders to Constantinople. Olha warned her son that his plans were bound to fail as the Byzantine Empire was united and strong.
On July 11, 969 Saint Olha died. In her final years, with the triumph of paganism, she had to secretly practice her faith. Before her death, she forbade the pagan celebration of the dead at her burial and was openly buried in accord with Orthodox ritual. A priest who accompanied her to Constantinople in 957 fulfilled her request.
Considered by Ukrainians the holy equal of Great Prince Volodymyr, St. Olha was invoked by St. Volodymyr on the day the people of Rus’ were baptized. Before his countrymen, St. Volodymr said of St. Olha: “The sons of Rus’ bless you, and also the generations of your descendants.”
Houses of Worship: An Identification Guide to the History and Styles of American Religious Architecture, Jeffrey Howe, Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, California, 2003.
AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Alice Sinkevitch, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 260.
The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957, pp. 577; 760-761.
Chicago: City of Neighborhoods, Dominic A. Pacyga and Ellen Skerrett, Loyola University Press, Chicago, 1986, p. 193.
FEATURE image: Chicago. St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral.
At the western main entrance are the stars and stripes of the U.S. flag and the blue and yellow Ukraine flag. An avenue of trees lines the south side of the cathedral building. With its huge size and detailed architecture, St. Nicholas stands prominently on its 20 city lots. Worthmann & Steinbach was a Chicago-based architectural firm active in the first three decades of the 20th century. It was a partnership of German-born Henry W. Worthmann (1857-1946) and John G. Steinbach. The firm, with offices in Chicago and Oak Park, Illinois, designed many of the great Polish cathedrals in Chicago and for Eastern Catholic and Lutheran clients. Clement L. Pointek collaborated with Worthmann & Steinbach until he formed his own architectural firm with principal Joseph A. Slupkowski (1884-1951). The church interior was renovated in the wake of Vatican II liturgical reforms in the mid 1970s by Ukrainian-American architect Zenon Mazurkevich (1939-2018).
The huge yellow brick church building in Chicago’s tree-lined Ukrainian Village neighborhood is 155 feet long and 85 feet wide. Among its details, the building is renowned for its frescos and mosaics. St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral’s impressive design and footprint on the skyline of one of Chicago’s neighborhoods was built as a worthy emulation of the 11th century (former) St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine. The church on Chicago’s near West side was built by the firm of Worthmann and Steinbach which built many churches in Chicago in the 1910’s and 1920’s. In the mid1970s the church interior was completely renovated and restored by a Ukrainian artist. Ukrainian Catholics follow the Byzantine-Slavonic Eastern Rite and acknowledge the pope in Rome as their spiritual leader.
History of the Cathedral parish
St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic parish was founded in 1905 by a group of 51 Ukrainian working immigrants. These Ukrainians arrived on Chicago’s northside in the late 1890’s from western and Carpathian Ukraine. Irish, Germans and Poles were already well established in Chicago by this time and built churches. The Ukrainians not only arrived later, but also were committed to their eastern-rite, Greek Catholic origins. They actively looked to fend off incorporation into the Latin rite under a mostly Irish Catholic hierarchy in the Chicago diocese. To this effect, the parish board adopted a resolution stating: “[T]hat all property of said church which may hereafter be acquired be held in the name of its incorporated name but under no conditions shall said church or its priests or pastors be ever under the jurisdiction of bishop or bishops except those of the same faith and rite.”
By 1911 it became clear that a new, larger church was needed for the growing Ukrainian community. Twenty lots were purchased on Rice Street between Oakley and Leavitt for $12,000 and building began. In 1913, Bishop Soter Ortynsky blessed the cornerstone of the new church. This Ukrainian Catholic church parish community relocated out of its original site and ventured about one mile directly west to build their new church under Fr. Nicholas Strutynsky. Fr. Nicholas had recently arrived from Ukraine and remained at St. Nicholas parish until 1921.
In 1941, St. Nicholas parish was host to the Eucharistic Congress for Eastern Rites. Twenty years later, in 1961, St. Nicholas Parish became St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral when it became the seat of the Eparchy for much of the United States. Msgr. Jaroslaw Gabro, a native son of the parish, became the first bishop of the newly created Ukrainian Catholic eparchy.
Completed in 1915, the magnificent, Byzantine-Slavonic structure with thirteen onion domes representing Christ and His 12 apostles was erected. The first liturgy was celebrated on Christmas Day, January 7, 1915 (Julian calendar). A Ukrainian heritage school (Ridna Shkola) was also founded. By the early 1960s the school had over 1000 students. In 2022, St. Nicholas Elementary School has about 150 students.
When Bishop Gabro announced that churches in the eparchy would need to follow the Gregorian religious calendar that is used in the Latin west, some parishioners left St. Nicholas. In 1974 these parishioners, adhering to the ancient Julian religious calendar. erected Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Church three minutes away on foot across Chicago Avenue.
In 1980 Bishop Gabro who passed away was succeeded by Bishop Innocent Lotocky and a healing began between the estranged Ukrainian churches that continues today. In 1988, an ecumenical commemoration of the millennium of Christianity in Ukraine brought together Ukrainian churches in Chicagoland. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, a new wave of immigrants from Ukraine began arriving in Chicago and joined St. Nicholas Cathedral. In 1993 Bishop Innocent Lotocky retired and was succeeded by Bishop Michael Wiwchar. In 2003 Bishop Michael Wiwchar was succeeded by Bishop Richard Stephen Seminack.
The height of the cathedral building is appreciated looking up from its north side near its main entrance. Metal onion domes turned green by a century of oxidization cap the building’s 16 towers.
The architecture, supported by columns, is curvaceous and spectacularly colorful.
The gold and blue fresco above the altar includes a pair of depictions of the former 11th century St. Sofia Cathedral in Kyiv on whose design and appearance St. Nicholas Ukrainian Cathedral is inspired. Kyiv is the capital city of the Ukraine and its cathedral is one of the finest examples of East Russo-Byzantine architecture. Kyiv/Kiev, Ukraine became the first capital of proto-Russia in the mid9th century as Slavic lands were organized by Norsemen who, simultaneously, as the fierce Vikings were plundering through much of Europe as they transported their culture.
Before the 9th century was over, the first Christian missionaries had arrived from Constantinople to the south into Russia and Ukraine and many Slavs became Christian. From the 10th to 13th centuries Kyiv, like Moscow to its north centuries later, became the intellectual and religious center of the country, where there were established innumerable monasteries, churches, and convents.
The entirety of murals and ornamentation are permanently affixed on interior surfaces by being painted directly on them. The only icon that was not renovated at this time was the one at the rear of the sanctuary depicting Christ with his apostles and Mother Mary. It was kept from 1928.
Hanging from the center highest dome of the church is a 9-tiered golden chandelier with 480 brilliant lights. The chandelier was made in Greece and is one the largest such chandeliers in North America. The ceiling is in gold leaf and wall decorations depict Christ and the Virgin with Old and New Testament figures such as saints, prophets, and patriarchs, all in bright colors.
A propensity of brown and gold in a color scheme that works. The formidable dome is an integral aspect of the interior decoration.
Hanging from the highest dome, a stunning chandelier of 9 tiers and 480 lights crafted in Greece sets aglow the church interior. The artwork depicts the Pentecost (Acts 2: 1-13). The 12 apostles with Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, are seated in bright primary colors as they are gathered together to receive the Holy Spirit symbolized by a dove from Heaven. This event immediately followed the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.
The subject matter and detailed application of artwork in St. Nicholas Ukrainian Cathedral is derived from the mosaics in the 11th century former Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv, Ukraine. Renovated between 1974 and 1977, the Interior of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral was led by Boris Makarenko (1925-2008), a specialist of Ukrainian Byzantine artwork.
Boris Makarenko was born in the Poltava region of Ukraine between Karkiv and Kyiv. With the outbreak of World War II, Ukraine was thrown into turmoil and Boris was drafted into the Soviet Army. He deserted with a group of friends and joined the Ukrainian Resistance. Boris fought his way across Europe and was eventually recruited into the British Army. Unable to return to his homeland, Boris immigrated in 1950 to the United States. He worked under the famed Ukrainian sculptor Mykola Mukhyn and eventually in a German-based firm where he learned and mastered the techniques of interior ecclesiastical art, restoration, and design. By the late 1950s, Makarenko founded his own studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Using classical methods, mosaics are created by utilizing pieces of smalti and gold whether the mosaics are on the exterior and or in the interior of the church building.
Typically, Italian smalti is poured thicker and cut into thinner pieces. Since they are cut from the inside of exposed molten glass they are more vibrant, consistent and reflective in colors. Italian smalti can provide a coarse or smooth surface depending on how they are laid into a working surface. To begin to understand the complexity and richness of the frescos and mosaic interior of St. Nicholas, the general rule is for each square foot of mosaic surface, about 600 pieces side to side are required. The amount of pieces for the cathedral are into the many tens of thousands.
The altar was built to face ad orientem, properly, “to the east.” This was the tradition and practice of the Catholic Church for nearly 2,000 years. The gold and decorations are outstanding.
Icons are visual symbols of eternal truth in the Christian Faith: the designs are based on archetypal images preserved and regenerated from the very beginnings of Christianity. Iconographers write icons in traditional media using egg yolk tempera and oil-based pigments. The predominance of the gold color that marks these interior paintings and decorations is gold leaf. Called “gilding,” the use of gold leaf pertains to iconography. plaster carvings, wood carvings, and metal.
Stained Glass by Munich Studio of Chicago
The colorful stained-glass is original to the 1915 church. They depict saints of the Catholic Church and were created by the Munich Studio of Chicago. The walls include tall, faceted windows displaying a hybrid of traditional and dalle-de-verre type glass techniques. Akin to mosaic, the latter stained-glass technique lends itself to abstract and highly stylized designs. The Munich Studio of Chicago was a major stained-glass studio in Chicago composed of skilled craftsmen and artists. In addition to the hagiography the windows depict, they also represent the artistic investment of the founding parishioners of St. Nicholas. While the term stained glass covers “colored, enameled, or painted glass”, Chicago’s pioneer “glass stainers” were primarily glass painters who used dark brown vitreous oxide and silver stain to paint designs on pieces of colored and/or opaque white glass. After the kiln firing the pieces were assembled like fragments of a puzzle and connected to each other with strips of malleable lead – called cames – which were fitted and soldered around each piece to create the full window.
The founder of The Munich Studio, Max Guler, was of middle-European extraction, as were the congregations of many of the churches who commissioned his firm for their windows. Guler came to Chicago about 1896 from the city of Munich, Germany where he had studied China painting. In 1898 his name appears in the Chicago city directory as an artist. Four years later the firm of Guler, Kugel and Holzchuh, presumably a small glass shop, is listed; and in 1903 the Chicago city directory first lists The Munich Studio, stained glass, 222 W. Madison, 5th f1r., with Guler as president. Catalog listings from 1910 to 1925 note thirty-two major church installations in Chicago and scores more elsewhere.
In 1913 the company moved from Madison Street to larger quarters at 300 West South Water Street (now Wacker Drive), and in 1923 to 111 West Austin Street (now Hubbard Street), at that time employing over 30 craftsmen, seven doing only glass painting. The Munich Studio imported most of its glass from France and Germany with domestically-made glass from firms in Indiana and West Virginia. As with European stained glass, they were painted with iron oxide and yellow stain and fired in ovens. The Munich Studio continued to prosper until 1930 when the Great Depression brought all building to a near standstill. Since it depended primarily upon the construction of new churches for its business, the economic downturn caused the company’s closing in 1932.
Mosaics of the Stations of the Cross were created by Boris Makarenko.
St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral’s regal appearance and design is inspired by the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv. This includes its 13 domes, symbolic of Christ and his 12 apostles. The Chicago cathedral is also similar to the Kyiv model in that it has 5 major domes.
On the steps of the main entrance the facade of the cathedral includes a treasured mosaic depicting “Our Lady of Pochaev.” Above that is an icon of St. Nicholas the Wonder (or Miracle) Worker, the cathedral’s namesake.
Story of “Our Lady of Pochaev”
Ukraine had been Christianized for about 200 years when, in 1198, when St. Francis of Assisi was about 17 years old, a monk climbed Pochaiv mountain in western Ukraine in order to pray. A pillar of fire appeared to the monk and some nearby shepherds. When the flames subsided, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared. The apparition left her footprint out of which a spring of water flowed. This supernatural event led to many others so that the region became dedicated to Mary.
In 1559, Metropolitan Neophit sent to Anna Hoyska an icon of our Lady of Pochaev. The icon shows our Lady wearing a crown and holding the infant Jesus. She holds the end of her veil in the other hand. It is an icon where the cheek of the baby Jesus touches Mary’s face as the infant gives a blessing with his hand. At approximately 11×9 inches in size, the original icon is small. Made from red-pitched cypress, the artist and circumstances of its creation are unknown.
The icon immediately worked a miracle as Anna Hoyska’s blind brother regained his sight. Following her death, the icon was donated to a Basilian Monastery and eventually placed in the Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Mother. Monastery chronicles record numerous miracles during the icon’s stay at their Church.
In 1773, the icon was crowned by Pope Clement XIV. In 1831 Russian Czar Nicholas I expelled the Basilians and gave the monastery to Orthodox monks. In 2001, the icon was moved from Pochaev to The Cathedra of the Trinity of The Danilov Monastery in Moscow.
Who is St. Nicholas the Wonder Worker?
St. Nicholas of Myra (270-340) is one of the church’s most popular and revered saints. He was the bishop of the ancient Lycian town of Myra in the eastern Mediterranean which is today’s Demre in Turkey. St. Nicholas Church that exists today in Demre (Myra) was built around 520 A.D. It was built over the older church where St. Nicholas was bishop and which became the saint’s burial place. St. Nicholas’s corpse remained incorrupt and exuded a fragrant odor of myrrh. For centuries St. Nicholas’s relics were in the cathedral in Myra. In 1087 his relics were moved from Myra to Bari, Italy, where they are today. The sweet myrrh smell that exudes from the saint’s body is said to still take place in 2022. St. Nicholas is an important religious figure for Latin and Eastern Rite Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians. St. Nicholas, who is the historical inspiration for Santa Claus, is the patron saint of children and those in dire need. He is also patron saint of prisoners, the falsely accused and convicted, and travelers. Nicholas is patron saint of Greece, Apulia in Italy, Sicily, and the Lorraine in France. Many miracles have been attributed to St. Nicholas during his lifetime and after his death which caused him to be called “the Miracle or Wonder Worker” of Myra.
Holy Trinity Cathedral was built on a limited budget. It is a small building at 47 x 98 feet situated on an east-west axis. The main body of the church is square with extensions and an octagonal dome above. The picturesque country-church entrance has a metal and wood canopy whose design and ornamentation were created by the architect, Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924). Dedicated in 1903, the church was designated a cathedral in 1923.
The parishioners that built this church were rural people who had emigrated from southern Russia near the Ukraine as well as the area of the Carpathian Mountains.
The Eastern Orthodox central plan creates an interior where the congregation stands in a square space topped by an octagonal dome. For Easter services and the like, the cathedral is filled to capacity with parishioners and others spilling out the front door with its decorative canopy onto the public sidewalk.
The stenciled artwork is not by Louis H. Sullivan.
Louis H. Sullivan designed the bell tower (above and below) with its ornamentation and eaves and soffits for Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village.
The walls of the church building are load-bearing brick covered with stucco. The bell tower and octagonal belfry, dome, and roof are made of wood with metal trim and latticework.
Louis H. Sullivan designed the portal canopy and its ornamentation such as the fretwork (above). He also designed the window frames (example below).
The church building was completed for around $27,000 in 1903 (approximately $1 million in 2022) with Sullivan donating half his commission to the church project.
Chicago Churches and Synagogues: An Architectural Pilgrimage, George Lane, S.J., and Algimantas Kezys, Loyola University Press, Chicago, 1981, p. 106-107.
Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 260.
FEATURE image: Oriental Theatre completed in 1926 and renamed the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in 1997. It became the Nederlander Theatre in 2019. Author’s photograph taken in December 2017.
In Chicago’s Loop, the Oriental Theatre opened on May 8, 1926. In the first half of the 20th century, Randolph Street was one of the city’s most bustling entertainment districts.
Designed by the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp—brothers Cornelius Ward (C.W.) Rapp (1861-1926) and George L(eslie) Rapp (1878-1941)—the Oriental Theatre was one of their many ornate movie palaces that they built. As its name implied, it was imagined in a style inspired by a Western fantasia of India and South Asian themes and motifs. Inspired by the architecture of India and the Far East, lights consisted of elephant heads with tusks, the walls were adorned with soft silk and regal velvets, and the ceiling was garishly decorated with plasterwork elephants and other exotic beasts.
Rapp & Rapp were alumni of the University of Illinois School of Architecture. The firm designed scores of theatres across the country in the first decades of the 20th century. The Rapp brothers were born in Carbondale in southern Illinois. Twenty-eight-year-old C.W. Rapp formed a partnership in 1889 with older architect, Canadian-born Cyrus P. Thomas (1933-1911) and they practiced together in Chicago until 1895. C.W. Rapp operated his own office for a decade until he formed a partnership with his brother G.L. Rapp in 1906. With stage entertainment and the boom of moving pictures after 1910, the firm of Rapp & Rapp quickly developed a reputation for their fantastic designs for silent film theatres in the Chicago area. Drawing on a large palette of architectural revival styles, Rapp & Rapp designed nearly four hundred theatres in the United States between 1906 and 1926.
In Chicago Rapp & Rapp designed notably State Street’s Chicago Theatre (1921) and the Bismarck Hotel and Theatre (1926). In New York City they built the since demolished Paramount Theatre (1926) in Times Square and the still-standing smaller-scaled Paramount Theatre (1931) in Aurora, Illinois.
In the mid1990s, after the Oriental Theatre had been closed and shuttered for over a decade, it underwent a multi-million-dollar restoration and expansion by Daniel P. Coffey & Associates. It reopened as the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in 1998. Following its expansion, the former Oriental Theatre seats over 2,000 patrons.
In the 1920s, the Oriental Theatre presented both movies and vaudeville acts. When talkies arrived, the Oriental Theatre became predominantly a movie house in the 1930s. Live stage, theatrical, and concert performances continued for mid20th century Chicago audiences during an era when Randolph Street was a mecca for crowds seeking out their favorite star performers. It also hosted smaller and vibrant live entertainment venues where one could seek out up-and-coming talents.
Duke Ellington and his orchestra made frequent appearances at the Oriental Theatre which welcomed patrons by way of an exotic ornate style. Some big names and legends in entertainment were seen at the Oriental Theatre including Judy Garland, George Jessel, Fanny Brice, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Cab Calloway, Eddie Cantor, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Jean Harlow, Billie Holiday, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, Frank Sinatra, Sophie Tucker, Sarah Vaughan, Henny Youngman, and a cast of thousands.
The Oriental Theatre closed in 1981 and remained shuttered for the rest of the 1980’s and into the early 1990’s depriving many young urban professionals from enjoying entertainment in a venue that, with its reopening in 1998, has operated continuously for nearly 100 years.
Ford Center for the Performing Arts in 1997 and the Nederlander Theatre in 2019.
In 1997 the Oriental Theatre was renamed the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and restored and expanded for its re-opening in 1998. In 2019 the theatre was renamed in honor of James M. Nederlander (1922-2016), Broadway theatre owner/producer and Broadway In Chicago founder.
Today’s James M. Nederlander Theatre hosts touring pre-Broadway and Broadway shows whose résumé included a long-running production of Billy Elliot: The Musical. From June 2005 through January 2009, the theater housed a full production of Wicked, making it the most popular stage production in Chicago history. In December 2017, when the feature photograph was taken, a traveling national tour of Wicked had started its Chicago run.
SOURCES: Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 54.
FEATURE IMAGE: East Bronze Door (upper panels) depicting Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary by Biagio Governali. Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago’s Little Italy. 12/2013 4 mb
Our Lady of Pompeii was originally established in Chicago in 1911 as an Italian national parish. The present church building at 1224 West Lexington Street in Chicago’s westside University Village/Little Italy neighborhood was constructed in 1923 and dedicated to Mary, Queen of the Rosary in 1924. The parish began under the Scalabrinian Missionaries, a religious institute founded in Italy in 1887 to aid and serve the Italian immigrants to America.
In 1994 Joseph Cardinal Bernardin proclaimed Our Lady of Pompeii church a Shrine, dedicated to honor Mary, the Mother of God and Queen of the Holy Rosary. Ten years later practically to the day, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I. dedicated the Shrine’s bronze doors. On that same October day in 2004, Bishop Carlo Liberati, Pontifical Delegate to the Shrine of The Blessed Virgin of The Holy Rosary in Pompeii, Italy, established “a most fervent and fraternal link of communion” between the shrine in Pompeii, Italy, and that of Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago.
Inspired by the main gate (“Porta del Paradiso”) of the Baptistry of Florence made by Florentine goldsmith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) between 1425 and 1452 and located in front of Florence’s cathedral, the bronze doors in Chicago were made by Biagio Governali, native of Corleone, Italy. The artist modeled each panel in wax which were then sent to Verona, Italy, to be cast in bronze and polished. These Veronese craftsmen came to Chicago on two occasions to mount and position the doors before they were dedicated and blessed by Cardinal George in 2004.
The West Bronze Door, dedicated in 2004, depicts the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii (1923), 1224 West Lexington Street in Chicago. Clockwise from top left, the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), the Visitation (Luke 1:39-56), the Nativity of Jesus (Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 1:18-2:23), the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40) and Christ among the Doctors (Finding in the Temple) (Luke 2:41-52). The shrine is the oldest continuous Italian-American Catholic Church in Chicago and is today a place to pray for peace that embraces pilgrims of all faiths.
1. The Annunciation (top, left)
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26-27).
2. The Visitation (top, right)
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!”‘ (Luke 1:39-42).
3. The Nativity of Jesus (center)
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7).
4. The Presentation in the Temple (bottom, left)
“And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”‘ (Luke 2:21-24).
5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple (bottom, right)
“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it … After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:41-47).
Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries.
The exterior doors of the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii in Chicago visually narrate the twenty mysteries of the Rosary. These are the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous mysteries. The faithful can use each door panel as a meditation to pray each decade of the Rosary.
In Europe, most of the complete works of art that have survived undamaged and unrestored from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to today are bronze doors, most of which are in Italy.
Even when the Shrine doors are closed, the sanctuary calls to all passersby to look, ponder, and personally experience the Gospel that these doors present in its fine artwork of the mysteries of the Rosary.
Central Bronze Door’s Artwork Explained –
1. The Agony in the Garden (top, left)
“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I go yonder and pray.’ And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matthew 26:36-39).
2. The Scourging at the Pillar (top, right)
“Pilate released Barabbas to them, but after he had Jesus scourged, he handed him over to be crucified.” (Matthew 27:26).
3. The Crowning With Thorns (center, left)
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head, and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” (Matthew 27:27-29).
4. The Carrying of the Cross (center, right)
“And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).” (Mark 15:21-22).
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus with Mary and John (center)
“And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ …It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last” (Luke 23:33-46).
1. The Resurrection of Jesus (center)
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”‘ (Luke 24:1-5).
2. The Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven (top, left)
“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19).
3. TheHoly Spirit comes upon Mary and the Apostles (top, right)
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4).
4. TheAssumption of Mary into Heaven (bottom, left)
“Henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me.” (Luke 1:48-49).
5. TheCoronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven (bottom, right)
“And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Revelation12:1).
At the bottom of the Sorrowful Mysteries bronze door, the angels hold a tablet emblazoned with Latin text that contains statements on the rosary by two post-Vatican II modern popes. A translation of the text reveals the importance of the rosary to Pope Paul VI (1897-1978) and John Paul II (1920-2005), both canonized saints. Pope Paul VI: “Without contemplation, the Rosary is a body without a soul.” Pope John Paul II: “To meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary is to look into the face of Christ.”
Pope Saint John Paul II (1920-2005) established the Luminous Mysteries near the end of his almost 27-year pontificate in 2002. About the entire rosary itself the pope said, “To meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary is to look into the face of Christ.”
According to The Catholic Encyclopedia (“The Rosary,” Herbert Thurston and Andrew Shipman, volume 13, Robert Appleton Company), the structure of the rosary including its 15 mysteries (five each for Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious) had been officially unchanged for 500 years – from the 16th to 20th centuries.
In 2002, Pope John Paul II instituted the five Luminous Mysteries. In his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, published on October 16, 2002, the pope marked out 4 broad areas as reasons to pray the rosary:
1. The rosary aids in contemplating Christ with Mary;
2. The rosary aids in contemplating the mysteries of Mary;
3. The rosary is a way of assimilating the mystery of “It is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20); and,
4. The rosary is a way of praying for, and arriving at, peace in one’s life, family, neighborhood, and in the world.
In the same letter (Chapter 3), the pope observed that icons and other religious visual images can assist the human imagination to meditate and contemplate upon the mysteries of the Christian faith, particularly those of the rosary. Appealing to the Church’s traditional spirituality as well as that of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) in The Spiritual Exercises, the pope’s exhortation to artistic representations as aiding mental prayer imbues Chicago’s great bronze portals depicting the mysteries of the rosary with the authenticity of standing at the threshold between time and eternity and the sacred and profane.
The pope acknowledged that although all the rosary’s 20 mysteries can be termed “luminous” – that is, pertaining to mysteries of light – the five new Luminous mysteries fill the gap between the infancy and hidden life of Christ (i.e., Joyful) and Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Day (i.e., Sorrowful and Glorious).
“And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”‘ (Matthew 3:16-17).
2. The Wedding Feast of Cana (top, right)
“On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.”‘ (John 2:1-5).
5. The Institution of the Eucharist (center)
“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.”‘ (Matthew 26:26).
3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (bottom, left)
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15).
4. The Transfiguration (bottom, right)
“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.” (Matthew 17:1-2).