Chicago Churches A Photographic Essay Promoting

Holy Trinity Church (Polish: Kościół Trójcy Świętej) is an historic church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago located at 1118 North Noble Street. It is a prime example of the so-called 'Polish Cathedral style' of churches, in both its opulence and grand scale. Along with such monumental religious edifices as St. Mary of the Angels, St. Hedwig's or St. John Cantius, it is one of the many Polish churches that dominate over the Kennedy Expressway in the Pulaski Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois.

Holy Trinity Church is the home of the Holy Trinity Polish Mission since 1987.


Holy Trinity was founded in 1872 to relieve overcrowding at St. Stanislaus Kostka, the city's first Polish parish. A twenty-year feud between the two parishes ensued, and the parish was not recognized canonically until the Vatican sent an Apostolic Delegate to resolve the issue. The Congregation of the Holy Cross was selected to serve the parish under the leadership of Casimir Sztuczko. The parish was long identified with the Polish National Alliance since many its parishioners were the Alliance's most active members. Construction of the Kennedy Expressway which cut through the heart of Chicago's Polonia began a period of decline for the parish as many long-time residents were forced to relocate. Attorney GeneralRobert Kennedy attended Mass here as part of the festivities surrounding the annual Polish Constitution Day Parade in 1961. The parish came under the jurisdiction of The Resurrectionists in 1975 and in 1988 of the Society of Christ Fathers who continue to administer it. As a cultural node for Chicago's Polish Community, the church has hosted elected officials from Poland and the United States, such as Robert F. Kennedy and Malgorzata Gosiewska. On September 14, 2006, the parish hosted PolishPrime MinisterJaroslaw Kaczynski during a Mass celebrating his visit to Chicago.

Shots of Holy Trinity Polish Mission can be seen throughout Call Northside 777 (1948) starring James Stewart, the first Hollywood feature film to be shot on location in Chicago.


The original plans were drawn by Herman Olszewski (better known by his pseudonym Von Herbulis), but were scaled-down to fit the resources of the parish. Local architect William Krieg drew the final version of the plans and construction began in 1905 with completion by October 1906.

The building combines a variety of styles. Two towers flank the entrance, which features a monumental portico supported by four Corinthian columns. Corinthian pilasters and pediments adorn the openings in the lower portions of the towers; higher up, toward the cupolas, the decoration becomes exuberantly baroque. A baroque superstructure, constructed primarily of brick and stone, rises above the portico, but the interior segmental arches and the skeletons of the towers are of iron. Inside the church the north and south windows are Gothic-Romanesque in style.

This blend of styles is reminiscent of the many churches of Poland built during the Middle Ages and, after being damaged by war or fire, were rebuilt and remodeled to suit later tastes. Often the money was exhausted before the remodeling could be completed so that the exterior was executed in one style and the interior in another. The architect of Holy Trinity evidently followed the pattern of things remembered, hoping to give the congregation a feeling of the old country.

The turn-of-the-century church interior retains its original form. It is spacious at 125 by 200 feet (38 m × 61 m)) and richly decorated. The segmental vaults are tripartite but, being of iron construction, have no supporting columns. Murals of religious scenes cover the walls, including a grouping depicting the patron saints of Poland. All the windows are stained glass and represent sacred symbols familiar to the Polish immigrants who founded the parish, such as the Black Madonna over the altar of St. Francis of Assisi; Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn glows richly above the altar of the Sacred Heart. Other windows feature small windows of Polish Saints and martyrs as well as Polish eagles and folkloric motifs.

K. Markiewicz executed the interior decorations of Holy Trinity in 1914 by and the mural paintings on the vaults were completed in 1926. The fine stained glass windows were selected in 1940 and installed in 1955. Most were installed by a well-known Polish artist, Irena Lorentowicz. A figure of Our Lady Queen of Emigrants by Professor Wiktor Zin was brought to the church and blessed by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in 1990. In 1992, an urn filled with soil from Kharkiv, Katyn and Mednoye in the former Soviet Union. Each of these sites contained mass graves of Poles murdered during World War II. The congretation installed memorial plaques in the narthex in 1993 and 1994 to honor Casimir Sztuczko, CSC, the longtime pastor of Holy Trinity who oversaw the building of the current church, and to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino, respectively. The Millennium Doors, by artist Jerzy Kenar, began welcoming visitors into the sanctuary in 2000. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the construction of the current church, the congregation began a renovation campaign in 2005. Work included installing new copper cupolas the two church towers, new granite tile in the presbytery, and the painting and refurbishing the interior. The area above the choir received a new mural depicting St. Cecilia in the company of an angelic choir. Other new depictions include St. Faustina, Cardinala Stefan Wyszynski and August Hlond and Pope John Paul II were added to reflect Saintly cults popular among today's Polish community. The parish obtained relics of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Karolina Kózka and Padre Pio for adoration by parishioners.


Casimir Sztuczko CSC, the long-time pastor of Holy Trinity who oversaw the building of the present church, wished to have an area set aside to venerate the holyrelics of saints and the beatified. The result is one of the most distinctive and interesting aspects of Holy Trinity, the so-called catacombs, inspired by the underground cemetery meeting places where early Christians met while the religion was still illegal in the Roman Empire. The catacombs are found beneath the area formerly occupied by the lower church, and consist of a winding path lined with niches containing saintly relics leading up to the chamber containing the grave of Christ. This was the first area of the church restored during the centennial renovation campaign, as it had become dilapidated over the years, particularly during the period when the parish was marked for liquidation. The parish obtained relics of new saints and a collection of stones from Biblical sites in the Holy Land. The 'catacombs' are open on Sundays after Masses and during the liturgical season of Lent. Relics of the following saints are found in the catacombs, a number of which are represented by more than one reliquary:

Church in architecture books[edit]

  • Howe, Jeffery (2003). Houses of Worship: An Identification Guide to the History and Styles of American religious Architecture. Thunder Bay Press. 
  • McNamara, Denis R. (2005). Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago. Liturgy Training Publications. 
  • Johnson, Elizabeth (1999). Chicago Churches: A Photographic Essay. Uppercase Books Inc. 
  • Lane, George A. (1982). Chicago Churches and Synagogues: An Architectural Pilgrimage. Loyola Press. 
  • Kantowicz, Edward R. (2007). The Archdiocese of Chicago: A Journey of Faith. Booklink. 
  • Kociolek, Jacek (2002). Kościoły Polskie w Chicago {Polish Churches of Chicago} (in Polish). Ex Libris. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago

Churches in the Archdiocese of Chicago

Holy Cross Church
Holy Family Church
Holy Innocents Church
Holy Trinity Church
Church of the Immaculate Conception
Nativity of Our Lord Church
Notre Dame de Chicago
Old St. Patrick's Church
Sacred Heart Church
St. Barbara Church
St. Clement Church
St. Hedwig's Church
St. Ita's Church
St. John Cantius Church
St. Josaphat Church
St. Joseph Church
St. Jerome Croatian Church
St. Ladislaus Church
St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church
St. Mary of the Angels Church
St. Mary of the Woods Catholic Church
St. Michael's Church, Old Town
St. Michael the Archangel Church, South Shore
St. Stanislaus Kostka Church
St. Thomas the Apostle Church
St. Vincent de Paul Church
Church of St. Vitus
St. Wenceslaus Church
Cook County
St. Anne Church, Barrington
St. Mary of Częstochowa Church, Cicero
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Glenview
SS. Cyril and Methodius Church, Lemont
St. James Church, Lemont
St. Martha Church, Morton Grove
St. John Brebeuf Church, Niles
St. Joseph Church, Wilmette

Education in the Archdiocese of Chicago

Higher education
High schools
Brother Rice High School
Christ the King Jesuit College Prep High School
Cristo Rey Jesuit High School
De La Salle Institute
DePaul College Prep
Hales Franciscan High School
Holy Trinity High School
Josephinum Academy
Leo Catholic High School
Marist High School
Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School
Mount Carmel High School
Notre Dame High School for Girls
Our Lady of Tepeyac High School
Resurrection High School
St. Benedict High School
St. Francis de Sales High School
St. Ignatius College Preparatory School
St. Patrick High School
St. Rita of Cascia High School
Cook County
St. Viator High School, Arlington Heights
Queen of Peace High School, Burbank
St. Laurence High School, Burbank
Marian Catholic High School, Chicago Heights
Nazareth Academy, La Grange Park
Mount Assisi Academy, Lemont
Notre Dame College Prep, Niles
Fenwick High School, Oak Park
Trinity High School, River Forest
Guerin College Preparatory High School, River Grove
Seton Academy, South Holland
St. Joseph High School, Westchester
Loyola Academy, Wilmette
Regina Dominican High School, Wilmette
Lake County
Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, Lake Forest
Carmel High School, Mundelein
St. Martin de Porres High School, Waukegan
View of the altar during evening mass
Portion of the ceiling mural, depicting various scenes (sideways)

Divisions, intolerance and a biased political process have influenced Detroit for several decades before and since the 1967 uprising. The idea for “Split” was born after meeting Detroiters who live behind the Wailing Wall, built in the 1940’s to separate white and black neighborhoods.

I found it compelling that these residents had such a blatant, physical reminder of racism literally in their backyards. This led me on a journey to learn more about how barriers of the past still haunt the city today. I wanted to let the people tell their city’s story themselves.

This photo essay is the result of research and dozens of interviews over the last five years that focused on the Wailing Wall and on the demolition of Paradise Valley, a culturally rich black neighborhood in the heart of Motown that was destroyed to build the Chrysler Freeway (I-75).

The lingering scars of housing segregation and other injustices relate to Detroit’s current crisis. Past struggles that have never been reconciled still trouble Motown. The story of Detroit is complex with no simple answers and “Split” aims to capture the stories of faith, survival and hope that remain.

See all 45 photos below, or click the first image to open a slideshow:

Nick Gregory is a teacher and basketball coach at Fenton Area Schools, as well as a prolific photographer and writer. His photo essay, "Split," was featured at the 2013 Grand Rapids Art Prize. It comes to Michigan Radio as a part of our series Summer of Rebellion: Looking Back at Detroit 1967.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nick Gregory has been a social studies teacher in Michigan since 2000 and he has been a National Writing Project Teacher consultant and a high school basketball coach since 2002. Gregory is an America Achieves Lead Fellow and he has exhibited photography related to Detroit and Flint social justice causes since 2011. Gregory, who has a Masters degree in Educational Leadership, believes that students need to learn from honest accounts of American history in order to tackle today's challenges. You can follow Nick Gregory on Twitter @CivicsEngaged or read his blog at

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