St. Mark Catholic Church

1048 N. Campbell Avenue, Chicago, IL

 

Architects: Barry and Kay

Inception: November 16, 1894

New Church: January 20, 1963

 

A graceful, textured cement and stone esplanade in front of the church’s main entrance is followed inside by a brick, steel and glass structure. The vestibule ceiling has a dozen large globe lights and high on the wall facing the main door is a balcony leading from the choir loft, where pictures may be taken. Directly below the balcony is a bronze plaque, which reads: “Enter into this house of God built by the faithful Catholic people of St. Mark Parish, A.D. 1962. Rev. W. P. Dunne, Pastor.”

The church itself impresses one greatly with its aura of simplicity and quiet. Nothing in the fan shaped edifice distracts from the striking main altar and the soaring crucifix over it.

To the left is a shrine to the Blessed Virgin and on the right one to St. Joseph.

The communion table is significant in its seeming obscurity. Its presence is felt rather than seen because of its quiet, yet dramatic design – a low, narrow black antique marble rail mounted on bronze uprights, each adorned with a gold on orange ceramic design of wheat or grapes. These deliberately de-emphasize the division between the sanctuary where the sacrifice is performed and the congregation who should be active participants in the celebration.

The crucifix over the altar has a crosspiece like the spars of a ship to which the church has often been likened; the corpus was executed in Pietrosanto, Italy, and is of linden wood because this is less subject to the expansion and contraction caused by heat and cold than most wood. This figure of Christ conveys not only the ideas of immolation and entreaty, but also an infinitely loving embrace for the entire world.

The sanctuary terrazzo floor has black and white marble altar steps, topped by the predella (altar platform) which is extended much more than customary to allow great freedom of movement around the altar.

The Altar

Altar Relicts: Sts. Concordia and Dilectus

Great Lion: Symbol of St. Mark, is winged as described by St. John in the Apocalypse and bear a book on which are inscribed the words of the evangelist: “Why are you fearful” (Mark 4, 40).

Designed by Chicago artist, Beatrice Wilczynski –who also designed the terra cotta and ceramic Stations of the Cross. The great winged bronze lion supports the white Italian marble altar table (ten feet wide, thirty-five inches deep, four inches thick, and weighing some 2400 pounds.

Executed by the Greco Studios who made a full size clay model, cast it in plaster, fired this into glass fiber, reduced it to sand, and then recast it in tis final form of bronze.

In the center of the lion is a stone core, which extends from the altar foundation up to the table, fulfilling liturgical requirement of an altar to have a stone foundation and contact with the ground.

Behind the altar is a bright orange and gold mosaic screen (reredos), which forms a background for the altar. This than stands out against the simple brickwork forming crosses along the back wall.

High above the altar is an ingenious skylight from which are suspended a great number of bronze plates. These diffuse the daylight coming into the church, add a most unusual and decorative effect to the ceiling, at the same time serve as a kind of canopy (or testor) over the altar.

The windows:

Designed by Gabriel Loir’s one of the most eminent designers of heavy glass windows in the world. Whose workshop is found in the cathedral city of Chartres, Mr. Loire has embodied in the windows, in abstract form, our Old and New Testament heritage. The general concept is two immense walls of glass forming a grandiose tapestry with vast movements of flowing color; blue is the basic color and the darker tones are toward the arear of the church with two luminous closest to the altar

1st Window. It depicts de creation of the world – the hand of God over the day and night; over the stars, water, land and plants; over man and woman.

2nd Window. It tells of original sin, and Adam and Eve’s fall is recalled by the serpent presenting and apple. God’s intervention and His leading of the chosen people toward the promised land are represented by the waters separating in two – to permit Moses and his followers to pass out the bondage of Egypt – and expression of divine love so etched in the memory of every Jew we still commemorate the feast of the Passover each spring.

3rd Window. For out of the house of David (from the root of Jesse) a thousand years later … “in the fullness of time”…. as St. Paul tells us would bud froth the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.

5th Window. It shows the broken chain and recalls that the Jews had now reached their promised land and the chain of exile and bondage was at last broken.

6th Window. It has somber colors and we find the terrible darkness that covered the face of the earth and filled the hearts of men in the last centuries before the coming of Christ. The Jewish community was dispersed and reunited… and then brought under the hell of the Roman conquerors. A bright bird represents the only ray of hope handed down from generation to generation – the cherished prophecy that God would send a Messiah.

NORTH SIDE REAR WINDOWS

7th Window. We find a panel glowing with reds of a new morning, the day of the beginning of our redemption, for a wondrous child is born to us, symbolized by the star of Bethlehem; the Son of God on earth, the “Chi Rho” or the Christ. His cross, the means whereby He redeemed us, extends through this seventh window, as well as the next two. It center in the eighth panel where it overshadows even the Eucharistic symbols.

8th Window. Eucharistic symbols of grapes and wheat, thereby declaring the immensity of the redemption for all and for all times. Here the Old Testament passes into the New: the bloody sacrifices of the Jewish people are replaced by the infinitely more meritorious sacrifice of Christ dying on the cross for us. This new type of sacrifice is re-offered every day in every Mass and for taking part in the sacrifice, the loving Christ of the Last Supper gives us His greatest gift of love –Himself- under the appearance of bread and wine.

9th Window. With only a little of the cross showing this panel tells of the resurrection, Christ’s great victory over the cross (sin) and death. In the symbol of a shining candle (the risen Light of the World) we find a reminder of our Lord’s pledge of our own glorious resurrection.

11th Window. Are the scales of justice, commemorating the last judgment, as well as three of the seven seals on the book of judgment mentioned in the Apocalypse. Above them is a figure of a lamb symbolizing Christ the Redeemer who will return at the end of the world as the just judge – a most sobering and realistic truth.

12th Window. Prominent on this last panel is a Hebrew inscription (Deut. 6.4), requested by Father Dunne: “Here, O Israel, thy God; they God is one”, which symbolizes the acceptance by the Jewish people of Jesus as their Messiah and their union with the Church as indicated in the writings of St. Paul. There are also two sets of Greek letters – the first a radiant and enlarged abstract “Chi Rho” representing Christ through who we will be one day united to our heavenly father; the second is the A and Ω (Alpha and Omega) reminding us that our God from all eternity for all eternity is the beginning and end of Himself and all Ha has made. The infinitely loving act of creation is the first window finds its perfection in this, the last window, where all are restored to God in Christ.