Various structures occupied the site of Holy Name Cathedral from 1845 until 1871, when the Great Chicago Fire destroyed the then existing structure. In 1874, Brooklyn Architect Patrick Charles Keely began the design of a replacement cathedral, which was consecrated on November 21, 1875. In 1890, the Vatican designated Chicago an archdiocese, with the result that Holy Name took on increased importance. As evidence of this, when Pope John Paul II visited Chicago in October 1979, he attended a concert featuring the Chicago Symphony and Luciano Pavarotti singer at Holy Name. Chicago knows how to put on the dog, so to speak.
In 2008, a 10-pound piece of wood fell 70 feet from the ceiling, requiring a massive renovation. On February 4, 2009, much of the roof was destroyed by an early morning fire, resulting in significant water damage to the cathedral. The fire was caused by a faulty ice melting system that serviced the roof. The firefighters who responded to the call entered the church's attics without oxygen masks and other protective gear, apparently because they were so intent on saving the structure. Ironically, the piece of wood that fell in 2008 probably saved the structure. Had the repairs precipitated by the fall not occurred, there is a good chance that the water used to fight the 2009 fire would have resulted in the collapse of the entire structure.
Today, the cathedral is probably the best know religious facility in the city.. In addition to regular services, it is the ceremonial site for the Chicago's Catholic community. Major weddings and funerals are held here. One of the more notable recent funerals was for Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert. I was told by one wedding videographer that the fee for a wedding is $1,000, which does not strike me as a large sum given the extravegent spending that often accompanies the union of two people.
At the time this photograph was made, the cathedral was pretty much empty. One woman from out of town was happy that there were no ceremonies because she had hoped to be able to pray in the cathedral during her visit to Chicago. The videographer I had spoken with was testing his cameras for a late afternoon wedding. Several were scheduled. It would have been nice to have a tripod, but my photograph is pretty good despite hand holding the camera.
The main sanctuary holds 2,000 people. It is build in Gothic revival style. My favorite object in the cathedral is the Resurrection Crucifix that hangs over the main alter. It was created by sculptor Ivo Dementz.
Copyright 2016, Jack B. Siegel. All Rights Reserved