Are you fascinated by church architecture or interested in
learning more about religion and faith? Chicago has a lot to offer, with
hundreds of houses of worship, top affiliated universities and a deep,
Chicago's Iconic Churches
Chicago is known for its beautiful architecture, and many of
the most incredible displays are the city's churches and other houses of
worship. These structures are not only esthetically pleasing, but they also
serve as a gateway to the immigrant past of Chicago. There are far too many to
suggest, but here are a few gems to get you started:
- Chicago Temple: This 21-story building next to
Daley Plaza houses the very first United Methodist Church of Chicago, the
oldest church in the city.
- St. Peter's Church: Smack dab in the middle of
the Loop, this church stands out thanks to its three-story crucifix atop the
- St. Mary of the Angels: Located in the Bucktown
neighborhood, this Italian Romanesque-style church was established by Polish
immigrants in 1897.
- Holy Family Church: Founded by the Jesuits in
1857, it is the second oldest church in Chicago and is located in University Village.
- St. Alphonsus: Revered for its Gothic-style
construction, spacious veranda and imposing tower, this Lakeview landmark was
completed in the 1890s and largely served the German community that lived in
Chicago has many affiliated colleges that have become
historically significant attractions in the city. DePaul University, the
largest Catholic university in the country, was first founded by the
Vincentians in 1898 to serve Roman Catholic children of immigrants. It has
since grown into an acclaimed liberal arts college, and its theater school is
considered one of the best in the nation. Be sure to visit St. Vincent de Paul
Parish to hear the sounds of the Lyon and Healy organ, and then head over to
see the remnants of the former McCormick Theological Seminary, a row of now
privately owned homes that line Fullerton Avenue just east of the train tracks.
A little further north is Loyola University of Chicago, a
Jesuit university founded in 1870. It is now the largest Jesuit university in
the U.S. Loyola is home to the Saint Joseph College Seminary, which serves the
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago; and the Jesuit First Studies Program,
one of only three such programs in the country. Make sure you stop by the
Madonna della Strada chapel, situated right on the lakefront, with Lake
Michigan right at its front steps.
Hear the Sounds of Gospel
Gospel was born in Chicago in the near south Bronzeville
neighborhood. The first gospel choir was assembled at Ebenezer Baptist Church and
the popularity of the music sparked a gospel choir boom in many other churches
across the city.
The best place to hear traditional and contemporary gospel
is at the Chicago Gospel Festival, held every summer in Millennium Park, the
Chicago Cultural Center and Ellis Park. But even if you're not visiting in
June, there are still plenty of ways to hear the melodies of this musical
The League of Chicago Theatres offers a list of shows and
special events dedicated to gospel. Or you can enjoy a two-hour themed concert
on the water with Spirit Cruises Gospel Lunch Cruise (select dates). There are
also dozens of concerts at churches throughout the city, so check out chicagomusic.org to find out who is singing where.
Unique Chicago Temples
There are a number of intricately designed and rare temples
sprinkled throughout Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. These temples are
linked to certain religions, but they welcome people from all walks of life.
One of the most well-known temples is the Frank Lloyd Wright
Unity Temple, the only surviving public building from the architect's prairie
period. While traditional places of worship were built with marble, or similar
fine stone, this temple was made from concrete, a material reserved for
factories and warehouses, not churches. Still, this bold design has now become
a significant architectural accomplishment.
In Wilmette, north of downtown, you will find the Baha'i
Temple, one of only seven such temples in the world. The unique structure
represents unity and invites prayer, and consists of nine sides surrounded by
gardens and fountains. On your visit, you can tour the interior of the temple,
watch a choir performance or experience a prayer service.
Southwest of the city in Lemont is the Hindu Temple of
Greater Chicago. This structure has been at the forefront of traditional Indian
prayer for more than 30 years, and features some of the most interesting towers
and statues around. Group tours of the temple are available by reservation any
day of the week.
Tours of Religious Sites
With so many churches, synagogues, schools and structures in
Chicago, it is hard to know which to visit. But with the help of trained
guides, you can get a tailored tour of some of the top religious architecture
and attractions in the city.
The Chicago History Museum offers a number of themed tours
that change monthly, including The Synogogue Speaks tour; while My Kind of Town
Tours and Events features a Houses of Worship tour around Chicago. The Chicago
Cultural Center often hosts a Magnificent Churches Tour that takes you to four
of the city's most fascinating religious structures.
here to find more tour information.