Architecture Milwaukee

Featured image by Stephanie Barto.

One of my joys as a Chicago tour guide is to show people things they might not have noticed otherwise.  Visitors to the city often focus on Navy Pier, Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile.  But Chicago’s Loop is a treasure trove of spectacular architecture, art, and history that I always recommend people take time to see.

After giving many tours of the Loop, one day it hit me: standing at the corner of Clark and Madison, you can see three – THREE – places of worship amidst all the surrounding commerce and government buildings: Chicago Loop Synagogue, St. Peter’s in the Loop, and the Chicago Temple.  I began pointing this out on my tours: in the middle of noisy Chicago, thousands of people come to these peaceful oases every week to pray.

While walking in the Loop – even for those of us who work there – one might not even notice these three places, save for their distinctive ‘calling cards.’  Chicago Loop Synogogue’s entrance is covered by hovering hands of blessing.  St. Peter’s in the Loop’s facade dramatically shows a crucifix.  The Chicago Temple’s carillon rings out melodic hymns every hour.   Through these, I believe we are being blessed, prayed for, and lifted up with song as we make our way through the Loop.

The Chicago Loop Synagogue (16 S Clark) is the home of an Orthodox Jewish congregation, founded in 1929.  After their earlier building was destroyed by fire, they built the current structure in 1957.  Architects Loebl, Schlossman, & Bennett, who were known for their suberb religious architecture, created a modern gem of modest scale, composed of glass, metal, and stone.


Above the entrance is the brass and bronze sculpture depicting hands of blessing.  Designed by Israeli sculptor Henri Azaz, the hands are accompanied by the scriptural words of blessing in Hebrew and English.  Geoffrey Baer and WTTW provide a brief look at the interior.

hands of blessing

Half a block away is St. Peter’s in the Loop Catholic Church (110 W Madison).  The current building was completed in 1953, but the parish has roots in the mid-nineteenth century.  Vitzhum & Burns designed the modern, light-filled structure.  Geoffrey Baer and WTTW take us inside.  Though there is no resident congregation, the Franciscan friars tend to a flock of locals, downtown workers, and visitors numbering over a million per year.  The facade on Madison street boldly shows the crucified Christ, designed by Latvian artist Arvid Strauss (executed by local artist J. Watts).

st peters facade

A block away is the skyscraper church known as the Chicago Temple of the First United Methodist Church (77 W Washington), home of the oldest congregation in Chicago (1831).  Designed by Holabird & Roche and completed in 1924, it is the tallest church building in the world.   Geoffrey Baer and WTTW do the interior honors.  If you visit the sanctuary, be sure and notice the modern stained-glass window on the west wall; it features the city of Chicago in vibrant color.

chicago window

From the 22nd floor, the carillon rings out sacred music every hour, morning through evening.  For a behind-the-scenes look at the carillon, see my previous post.  The songs are chosen for the season and during this Lent you will hear the following:   8:46am: Just As I Am; 9:46am: Amazing Grace; 10:46am: What Wondrous Love Is This; 11:46am: Break Thou The Bread of Life; 11:51am: Eat This Bread, Drink This Cup; 1:46pm: Beneath The Cross of Jesus; 3:46pm: At The Cross Her Station Keeping; 4:46pm: O Sacred Head Now Wounded; 5:46pm: Were You There?; 6:46pm: Abide With Me; 7:46pm: Go To Dark Gethsemane.

Next time you are in Chicago’s Loop, I hope you will check out these three places of faith.  At the very least, know when you are in the Loop, that you are being blessed, prayed for, and lifted up with song!

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