Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago

Photo of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois
The cathedral undergoing repairs in the Summer of 2008

Airlifted pipes.

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Holy Name Cathedral

735 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois, Near North Side 60654
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One of the largest and most impressive holy places in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Holy Name Cathedral is not only the mother church of the region, but also the focal point of an active Roman Catholic community in the heart of the city.

Founded originally as the Chapel of the Holy Name in 1846, it was once part of Saint Mary of the Lake University before that institution moved to the suburbs. As Chicago's population exploded, a new chapel was built a block south of the present building's location. That was only sufficient for a short time, and a few years later a new facility was erected across Superior Street from the current Holy Name Cathedral.

The 1854 structure was a huge church, with a spire reaching 245 feet into the sky. It opened on Christmas Day, 1854 and five years later it was named the diocesan cathedral. The glory was short-lived, though. The cathedral was one of hundreds of buildings destroyed in the Chicago Fire.

After four years of worship in what was known as the "shanty cathedral," enough money was raised to start construction on the current building in 1874. A year later, the building opened as one of the grandest holy spaces in the Midwest.

The cathedral has two shrines: The Shrine of the Blessed Mother and the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. The tabernacle is kept in the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament. Both feature bronze designs by Luca Lucetti.

Quick Facts
  • Construction start: 1874
  • Construction finish: 1875
  • Designed by: Patrick Charles Keely
  • Renovated: 2007-2008
  • Renovated: 1968-1969 by C.F. Murphy
  • Renovated: Early 1900's
  • Renovated: 1890
  • Type: Holy Place
  • Maximum Height: 210 feet / 64 meters
  • Maximum Width: 126 feet
  • Maximum Length: 233 feet
  • Seating capacity: 1,520
  • 1846: The Chapel of the Holy Name opened at Saint Mary of the Lake University in what is now Chicago's Near North Side.
  • 1849: An independent Chapel of the Holy Name was erected on North State Street between East Superior Street and East Huron Street.
  • December 25, 1854: The new Holy Name Church was built at North State and East Superior Streets.
  • 1859: Bishop James Duggan elevated Holy Name to cathedral status.
  • 1871: The cathedral was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.
  • 1874: Construction began on the current cathedral.
  • 1875: Construction finished on the current cathedral.
  • 1890: Foundation problems lead to a near total reconstruction of the cathedral, including replacing the buttresses and bracing the steeple.
  • 1939: When Cardinal Mundelein died the State Street Subway was being built. The street had to be quickly rebuilt for the funeral.
  • 1968: The cathedral was gutted for foundation repairs and at the same time a chapel was added and the interior redesigned to accommodate changes in the mass promulgated by Vatican II.
  • 1979: Pope John Paul II attends two concerts at Holy Name Cathedral, one featuring Luciano Pavarotti, and the other the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
  • February 13, 2008: The cathedral closed after a chunk of the ceiling came loose and fell 70 feet onto the pews below. No one was hurt.
  • November, 2008: The cathedral reopens to the public.
  • February, 2009: The cathedral's gift shop closed.
  • February 4, 2009: Fire broke out in this cathedral the early morning hours.
  • The main organ was made in 1989 by Flentrop Orgelbouw in Zaandam, The Netherlands and has 5,558 pipes in 71 stops.
  • The sanctuary organ was made by Casavant Frères in 1981 and has 1,284 pipes in 19 stops.
  • The five bas reliefs behind the altar were executed in 1969 by Atilo Selva. They depict Simeon contemplating the baby Jesus at his presentation to the Temple, the mystery of the Trinity, the resurrection of Jesus, the naming and circumcision of Jesus, and Jesus dressed as a priest for mass.
  • In the early 1900's the building was cut in half and one half moved 15 feet eastward in order to accommodate additional people.
  • The abstract stained glass windows were made in Milan, Italy.
  • The stained glass windows are dark red and blue near the main entrance and gradually turn gold and white as they approach the altar.
  • The altar is a single six-ton slab of red-black granite from Argentina. Its base is decorated with scenes of sacrifice from the Bible.
  • The Bronze doors and the glass screen which separates the foyer from the main church were designed by Albert J. Friscia.
  • The Resurrection Crucifix was made of wood by Ivo Demetz.
  • The Stations of the Cross were made of red marble by Goffredo Verginelli.
  • The lectern on the left side of the church features a bronze sculpture by Eugenio de Courten depicting allegories of Matthew (an angel), Mark (a lion), Luke (an ox), and John (an eagle).
  • De Courten also did the lectern on the right side of the cathedral depicts Peter (with the keys), Paul (with the sword), James, and Jude (with the whip).
  • The panels of the Bishop's throne depict Peter, Jesus, and Paul.
Did You Know?
  • Patrick Charles Keely designed more than 600 churches and 16 other cathedrals in the United States.
  • A 2009 Chicago Tribune article claims that one of Al Capone's rivals was gunned down on the steps of the cathedral. This is not quite true. On October 11, 1926 two men working for Al Capone opened fire on a group of men in the middle of State Street in front of the cathedral, killing two of them. The hail of bullets that killed Earl "Hymie" Weiss and Pat Murray while wounding W.W. O'Brien, Benjamin Jacobs, and Sam Peller damaged the cathedral's cornerstone. The damaged cornerstone has since been obscured by stairs.
Tourist Tips
  • The bronze doors each weigh 1,200 pounds. They work on a touch-sensitive hydraulic system, so pushing and pulling harder won't make them open any faster.
Look For
  • The Resurrection Crucifix, which hangs over the main altar. It depicts Jesus in triumph over death rather than in agony as is commonly seen.
  • The seals of the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, the United States of America, and the Holy See, and the coat of arms of John Cardinal Cody on the ceiling.
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