Monday, December 1, 2014

Basilica of St. Hyacinth, Chicago, Illinois - Christmas in Chicago Advent Series, Part 1

Chicago is full of incredible churches, especially "Polish Cathedrals," a name assigned to the grand houses of worship built by Polish immigrants and their immediate descendants.  This church however, is the only one of the grand Polish churches to be granted status as a minor basilica in Chicago.  In fact, the basilica's umbraculum (Latin for umbrella), or Papal umbrella, is visible on the far left of the photo.

Contextual Note: On December 30th of last year, I took a day trip to Chicago primarily to take pictures of a few of Chicago's churches while they were decked out in all of their Christmastime splendor.  Originally I planned to post them shortly after my visit, then as a "Christmas in July" series.  Now here we are, almost a year later, and I am finally starting to post them.  Perhaps the Advent season, which started this week, is more fitting for these photos anyway, but I'll let you, the reader, ponder that.  Another note: For the sake of speed, I didn't use my tripod for any of the photos I plan to use for this series, Sometimes, that decision is reflected in the photo quality (all the more reason to re-shoot!). 

One of the Basilica's many highlights is the dome above the center of the nave, featuring a painting that includes dozens of religious figures of both Polish and more general Catholic history.  I wasn't able to get a great picture of the dome itself, but here is the stained glass window that makes up the centerpiece of the dome.  

Jesus presenting St. Peter the Keys to the Kingdom as noted in the Gospel.  Note the inclusion of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City near the top of the window.

Left: Side chapel featuring Our Lady of Częstochowa and Child.
Right: St. Barbara.

Left: Area to the right of the main altar, including the Basilica's tintinnabulum (bell), several shrines to St. Mary, and the Basilica's main crucifix.
Right: St. Joseph and Child.

St. John Cantius, Polish saint and the namesake for another of Chicago's Polish cathedrals.

The high altar.  The Host was exposed for veneration at the time of my visit (see center).  While most churches and chapels that I have visited are deathly silent when the Eucharist is visible (a time of Eucharistic adoration), I recall hearing vacuums inside the Basilica while I was taking pictures.  Flanking the sides of the altar are Sts. Peter & Paul.

St. Haycinth as a priest, is depicted above the Host carrying a ciborium away from a Mass in Kiev, where he served for a time.  Warned of an attack from an invading Tartar army, St. Hyacinth is shown while passing a statue of St. Mary & Child (shown to the left of St. Haycinth).  As is summarized in Fr. Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints, a voice called to St. Hyacinth summoning him to carry the statue with him out of Kiev.  As difficult as it seems to lug a statue around while avoiding invading troops, this saintly story meets its peak when St. Hyacinth is forced to cross the river Dnieper, and does so by walking across its surface.[1]

From the narthex, another image of Our Lady of Częstochowa and Child.  The icon at the far right is the Polish eagle, while the Polish text arching over Our Lady and Child.

One of bronze sets of doors at the main entrance of the Basilica.  Sculpted by Polish artist Czesław Dźwigaj, we see among other events, the building of the Basilica and St. Hyacinth himself with Our Lady and Child on the right door.[2]  These doors were installed in 2005.[3]

The St. Hyacinth School building.

Nativity scene by the rectory.

Does it look like the Polish have some influence in Chicago?

St. Hyacinth Basilica 
3636 West Wolfram Street, Chicago, IL 60618

Additional Sources
[1] Butler, Fr. Alban. Lives of the Saints, Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 1995 reprint of 1955 edition, 423.

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