Sunday, November 09, 2008

My visit to Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago

I like to visit local churches when I'm on business travel. Two weeks ago, I was in Chicago and decided to drop in on Holy Name Cathedral on a Saturday afternoon. Knowing what I do about recent Catholic history in Chicago, I was expecting to see yet another example of "wreckovation". Sadly, I wasn't far off.

The exterior of the Cathedral is still quite lovely. Here are two photos:
And from another angle:
Once inside, though, the ambiance was something not quite Catholic. By way of comparison, here's a photo of the inside of the Cathedral circa 1958 before the "modernizaton" took place.
And here's what the interior looks like today (apologies for the blur):
The ceilings, columns, and floor remain quite beautiful, but notice the apse in particular which has been almost completely desacralized. Also notice the disappearance of religious statues.

When I entered, the organist was playing some horrible 12-tone piece that seemed better suited for a slasher movie than for a Catholic cathedral. With that noise echoing throughout the vast space, it was impossible to pray. So instead, I went and visited the bookstore in the basement. To my surprise, the selection of books and religious items on sale was excellent and I walked out with a Byzantine/Russian style icon of Our Lady Hodegetria.

By the time I left the bookstore, the "music" had ceased so I decided to say a rosary. At that point, I went looking for the tabernacle. Of course, there was no sign of it in the apse, and for a moment, I felt a little like Mary Magdalene on Easter morning when she said, "They have taken my Lord away and I don't know where they have put him." I found what I assumed was the tabernacle in one of the two side "chapels" flanking the apse. Calling them chapels is a stretch, however, as there are no altars in either of them. As works of religious art, both are horrifying:
I assume this piece was done in honor of the Blessed Virgin, although to me it looked more like a haphazard display of heavy bronze cobwebs.

The tabernacle was worse:
In this one, we see our Lord emerging from a Sputnik-like object which has apparently exploded in a taffy factory.

It was a bit difficult to pray with these disturbing images in front of me, and the cynical part of me speculated that this was the whole point of having them there. But I persevered. At least the huge, stylized crucifix hanging over the altar wasn't completely awful. The rose windows were also quite beautiful, but I suspect these were left untouched from the original construction.
The rear of the cathedral was dominated by the organ, which had a foreboding appearance--almost like the warp core of the starship Enterprise:
On a positive note, I was able to attend Confession at the cathedral, and there was a steady stream of penitents there when I went. As I left, I noticed that there is currently a capital campaign underway for the building, and refurbishment is in process on the exterior of the building. I can only hope this means that some major dewreckovation may be in the works on the interior as well in the not-too-distant future. It would be a shame to leave such a beautiful edifice so barren of religious adornment.

1 comment:

Master uxi said...

I've seen other articles claiming the before picture was 1958 as the Requiem for Cardinal Stritch, but doesn't make sense with the versus populum table in front of the altar. Thinking it has to be 1965 and the Requiem for Cardinal Meyer. If it was 1958, then Chicago was already clearly afflicted with Modernism well before the Council.