The Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, mentioned yesterday, is on route Illinois 59 in Bartlett. As I was preparing for my visit, looking at Google Maps, I noticed something else similiarly interesting just a few miles to the north, also on Illinois 59 in Bartlett: the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago. A Jain temple, in other words.

This too had escaped my notice all the years I’ve lived in the northwest suburbs. I figured if I were going to be out in Bartlett to see the monumental mandir, I might as well drop by to see what the Jains have built. So I did.

Jain Society of Metropolitan ChicagoThe Jain temple, next to a large parking lot on an even larger bit of land, isn’t as massive as the BAPS structure, but it’s pleasing to the eye, and made all the more interesting because it’s such a rare thing here in North America. That despite what Wiki asserts: “The most significant time of Jain immigration was in the early 1970s. The United States has since become a center of the Jain diaspora [citation needed].” This particular temple was built in the early 1990s.
The Jain Society of Metropolitan ChicagoThe temple interior is essentially a single room with rows of eye-level effigies along the walls, and some other ornamentation. It all reminded me how little I remembered about Jainism.

I studied Jainism briefly — a class or two — in Survey of Eastern Religions, as taught by the highly learned Charles Hambrick, but that was 35 years ago (a professor emeritus these days, but last I checked still with us). Mainly I remember the strong emphasis on pacifism, which often has the unfortunate side effect of inspiring nearby and less pacific people to acts of persecution. If indeed the Jain diaspora is focused in this country, I hope they’re doing well.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a monumental Hindu temple on 27 acres in suburban Bartlett, Ill., is less than 10 miles from where I’ve lived for most of the 21st century so far. How is it that I never knew about it until a few weeks ago? You imagine that you know your part of the world pretty well, but it’s just a conceit.

BAPS, incidentally, stands for Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha, so the full name of the site would be the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago. I can see why it’s abbreviated. I can’t pretend to know how the group that built the temple fits into the galaxy of Hinduism, though I’ve read that it’s a relatively modern movement, originating in Gujarat state. I wouldn’t mind knowing more, but whatever knowledge I take away from reading about the details of Hinduism tends to evaporate in a short time, sorry to say.

The suburban Chicago temple is just one of a half-dozen such in North America. The others are in metro Atlanta, Houston, LA, and Toronto, and in central New Jersey. Judging by their pictures, each is about as monumental as the metro Chicago temple, though Chicago’s supposed to be the largest. In fact, it’s the largest Hindu temple in North America, at least according to one source. Even if that’s not so important, the place does impress with its size.

On a sunny but not exactly warm day recently, I drove to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir for a look. The structure, finished only in 2004, is stunning.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoThe exterior is limestone, the interior marble and granite. The temple’s web site has a sketch of the structure’s creation, which I’ve edited a bit.

The Carrara marble was quarried in Italy and the limestone was quarried in Turkey.
From there it was shipped to Kandla in western India.

The material was then transported to Rajasthan, where it was hand-carved by more than 3,000 craftsman over a period of 22 months.

The finished pieces were then shipped to a final location for polishing, packaging and numbering before being shipped back to the port in Kandla.

It took two months for a container ship to journey from India to the US.

Upon reaching Virginia, the containers were put on a train to Chicago and then transported to the project site.

Upon arrival at the site, the stones were grouped and classified based on a detailed database of each piece.

The pieces were then assembled together like a massive, three- dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

The finished products of rich carvings are a testimony to the exquisite skills of craftsmen, aided by superb logistics and engineering.

I’ll go along with that last sentence. Even though I didn’t understand the details of what I was looking at, I admire the artistic and engineering skill it must have taken to create the thing.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

Next to the mandir is the haveli, a fine building in its own right, featuring some exceptionally intricate wood carving. It serves a number of functions. For my purposes, it included a visitors center, gift shop (with a few postcards) and the entrance to the mandir, which is open to the public.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli ChicagoThe mandir is accessible via an underground tunnel from the haveli. Exhibits about Hinduism line the wall of the tunnel. The inside of the mandir, marbled and quiet, is an astonishing forest of carved columns and sculpted walls. No photography allowed, but of course pictures do exist.

I might not ever make to India. Can’t go everywhere. Fortunately, a striking piece of India is within easy driving distance.

Two Churches & One Temple in Old Town

Towering over N. Cleveland and W. Eugenie Sts. in the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago is St. Michael’s, a Romanesque Catholic church dating from just before the Great Chicago Fire. Not good timing, since the building was thus in the path of the conflagration.

“As the fire moved past Holy Name Cathedral, religious from nearby institutions rushed to St. Michael’s for respite, but they knew that the fire was just a few hours away,” the church tells us at its web site. “Priests, brothers, and nuns, helped by parishioners, packed parish treasures onto an oxcart and fled. Soon, flames tore into all the parish buildings, leveling all of them. Only the walls of the church remained standing.”

By 1873, the church had been rebuilt, though various modifications have occurred since then.

St. Michael's, Old Town, Chicago St. Michael's, Old Town, ChicagoLook closely up there and you see the Archangel Michael, sword drawn, ready to do battle with Old Scratch and his minions.
St. Michael's, Old Town, ChicagoThe interior looks like this: Bavarian Baroque, according to the AIA Guide to Chicago.

The archangel is also depicted outside on the plaza, facing the church. His sword is at his side, after vanquishing Old Scratch (at least, I assume that’s Satan underfoot). Good thing none of the nearby telephone wires were damaged in the struggle.
St. Michael's, Old Town, ChicagoThe plaza itself is a pedestrian zone that cuts the flow of cars on that section of Eugenie St. That’s unusual. I can’t think of another church in Chicago that has one. It helps make that part of Old Town distinct.

A few blocks to the north, at Wisconsin and Orleans, is the less distinct — at least as a building — Church of the Three Crosses, which is affiliated with both the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.
Church of the Tree Crosses, Old Town, ChicagoAround back, however, is a sign of the times.
Church of the Three Crosses, Old Town, ChicagoRoughly between St. Michael’s and the Church of the Three Crosses, on W. Menomonee, is the Midwest Buddhist Temple, a temple of the Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism.

Midwest Buddhist Temple“Jodo Shinshu, also referred to as Shin Buddhism, was founded in Japan by Shinran Shonin (1173-1262),” explains the temple’s web site. “It was Shinran Shonin who made Buddhist teachings accessible to people of all walks of life — in contrast to the traditional, primarily monastic practice of Buddhism.

“Between 1900 and 1940, many Jodo Shinshu temples were founded along the West Coast of the United States. But it wasn’t until 1944 that the Midwest Buddhist Temple was founded in Chicago by Rev. Gyodo Kono — its beginning linked to the ‘resettlement’ of many Japanese-Americans who moved to the Midwest to start new lives as World War II came to a close.”

At the edge of the property is a small but lovely garden, designed by Hoichi Kurisu of Portland, Ore., who also did the Anderson Gardens in Rockford.

Midwest Buddhist TempleMidwest Buddhist Temple“The boulders, set into place by a 30-ton crane, were especially important in representing the topographical features of Shinran Shonin’s walk from Mt. Hiei to the people in the Japanese villages as he spread the teachings of Shin Buddhism.”

Luckily, these days there are funiculars connecting Mt. Hiei with the rest of Japan.

Pettit Memorial Chapel

Belvidere, town of about 25,000 and seat of Boone County, Ill., is east of Rockford, but not very far, so it’s part of the Rockford MSA. Rather than take the Interstate all the way back from Rockford, we drove on US BUS 20 for a while, then US 20. That route takes you near Belvidere Cemetery, home of the Pettit Memorial Chapel.

Pettit Memorial ChapelThe chapel counts as minor Wright, vintage 1906 (pre-running off with a client’s wife, in other words, and pre-ax murders at Taliesin). The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust says that “the Pettit Memorial Chapel is a small structure on the grounds of Belvidere Cemetery… Emma Glasner Pettit, the sister of William A. Glasner, for whom Wright designed a home Glencoe in 1905, commissioned the chapel in honor of her deceased husband, William H. Pettit.

“The chapel consists of a long narrow porch and an adjoining, rectangular room for memorial services. Raised above ground level, the chapel is accessed via a staircase at the front of the porch, or a set of angled staircases that flank the meeting room at the rear of the porch. Just as he did in his residential designs, Wright included a centrally located fireplace with a broad chimney that emerges from a low-hipped roof.”

We went onto the porch.
Pettit Memorial ChapelThen we went around back. The rectangular room — marked by green window trim — was locked.
Pettit Memorial ChapelThe cemetery looked fairly nice, but we didn’t take any time for a closer look. This is a view from the chapel.
Belvidere CemeteryWe didn’t see William Pettit’s stone. According to the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places (by an Oak Park architect named Thomas A. Heinz), “Dr. Pettit had the largest practice in northern Iowa, and most of the state mourned his sudden passing in 1899… After proper deliberation as to a suitable memorial, it was decided to build a chapel in Belvidere, his hometown…”

Also in the nomination form: “[The chapel]… is the only structure of its kind in the oevre of [Wright’s] work, the only memorial or cemetery structure ever built.”

Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside

Demographic note: a lot more people reside in Mount Carmel Cemetery in west suburban Hillside, Ill., than in the village itself. The cemetery has about 226,000 permanent residents, while the village has only about 8,100 (living) people. But the advantage goes to the living, of course. For instance, they can vote in Cook County elections; most of the dead people can’t.

I’ve known about Mount Carmel for years, but only got around to visiting last week, on a cool and partly cloudy afternoon. The cemetery is thick with upright stones —

Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILMount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside IL… funerary art —

Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILMount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside… and mausoleums. In fact, there are a lot of family mausoleums there, about 400, including these three.
Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILAt Mount Carmel, one learns that the Lord is a Cubs fan.
Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside ILOn a hillock in the middle of the cemetery is the Bishops’ Chapel, or Bishops’ Mausoleum, but in full the Mausoleum and Chapel of the Archbishops of Chicago, complete with Gabriel blowing his horn.
Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside IL bishops' mausoleum and chapelInside are the remains of seven bishops, archbishops and auxiliary bishops of Chicago, mostly recently Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, who was entombed in 1996. I remember in the fall of ’96 seeing his funeral procession cross the Michigan Ave. Bridge from an office window in 35 E. Wacker, where I worked. Presumably they were headed for Mount Carmel.

The book Mount Carmel and Queen of Heaven Cemeteries by Jenny Floro-Khalaf and Cynthia Savaglio gives quite a lot of detail about the Bishops’ Mausoleum, which was completed in 1912. The cemetery itself was established with the new-born century in 1901, long before the Eisenhower Expressway ran to its north, and probably when Roosevelt Road to the south — not yet called that, but 12th St. in the city at least — was very rudimentary indeed.

“[The chapel] was the brainchild of Chicago’s second archbishop, James Quigley, who oversaw its construction,” Floro-Khalaf and Savaglio write. “He engaged a local architect, William J. Brickman, who came up with the simple, Romanesque style that embodies the building’s outline. However, in keeping with the aesthetic tastes of his predecessor, Patrick Feehan, Quigley engaged one of the most famous architects of the day, Aristide Leonori, who designed the building’s breathtaking interior… Leonari executed a design reminiscent of Rome in marble and mosaic.”

A locked door was as close as I got to the breathtaking interior, for which I blame wankers who would do harm to it. But over the door, you’re reminded that Quigley built the place.

Many Italian names dot the cemtery’s landscape. Benedetto, Bernardo, DeVito, DiGiovanni, Felicetti, Gazzolo, Genna, Mazzitelli, Salerno, Serritello, Truppa, Perazzo, Porcaro, Porzio, and Viviano were among those I saw, though there was a fair number of Irish names and others mixed in.

One name I didn’t see was Capone. If I’d done any research beforehand, I would have known where to look for Al Capone. The cemetery doesn’t guide visitors to his grave, unlike the signs posted to direct you to the Wright Bros. at the Woodland Cemetery in Dayton or the Hunley crews in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston. Maybe some other time.

Other mafioso are buried in Mount Carmel, though not as well known as Capone any more. But their stories are no less lurid. Such as Joseph “Hop Toad” Giunta, who ran afoul of Capone in a particularly bloody way, or so the story goes. I didn’t see his grave, either.

Find a Grave says, “He was a high ranking member of the Capone gang who formed a secret alliance with Al Capone enemy Joe Aiello. Giunta planned to kill Capone and take over his operations, and enlisted the help of Capone triggermen John Scalise and Albert Anselmi with the promise of higher positions when Giunta was in power.

“Capone found out about the plan and invited Giunta, Scalise and Anselmi to a dinner party. During dinner Capone brought out an Indian club he’d received as a gift and proceeded to beat the three men to near death. Capone then allegedly finished the job with gunshots…”

More Charleston Scenes

The Nathaniel Russell House on Meeting St. in Charleston, SC, completed in 1808, was originally home of one of the wealthiest men in the city at the time, Nathaniel Russell. In our time, it’s an historic property open for tours.

I didn’t have time to take a tour. I did have time to wander around its picturesque garden, which is open to the public. More remarkably, in mid-February this year, the garden looked like spring already.

Nathaniel Russell House gardenNathaniel Russell House gardenLocal sources told me that the weather lately had been unusually warm, even for Charleston. Flowers and other plants responded to the warmth in the only way they know how.
Nathaniel Russell House gardenSignage sometimes has its charms in Charleston.
Tellis Pharmacy, Charleston SC 2017That’s what more drug stores need, mortar-and-pestle symbology. Alas, it’s only a relic now, since the drug store on this site apparently closed a few years ago. Looks like an antique shop occupies the building, which is on King St. At least the new owners decided to keep the sign; or maybe it’s protected.

Unlike St. Philip’s graveyards, which were locked away behind imposing iron fences (though I could see the stone of Vice President Calhoun in the distance), the Circular Congregational Church’s graveyard is open to all during the day.

 Circular Congregational ChurchThe cemetery included some stones, pre-Revolution in vintage, that reminded me very much of the old stones in Boston’s downtown graveyards.
 Circular Congregational Church cemeteryPlus plenty of later 18th- and 19th-century stones.
 Circular Congregational Church cemeteryAnd some nice views of the back of Circular Church.
 Circular Congregational Church cemeteryOne of the best known tourist attractions in Charleston is City Market, which has been the site of a public market for more than two centuries. I’ve never been one to eschew tourist destinations just because they’re popular among tourists, so I popped it for a look. Not bad, but not nearly as interesting as the Pike Place Market in Seattle.
City Market, Charleston 2017One more structure: Charleston City Hall.
Charleston City HallDiscover South Carolina says: “On the site of a Colonial marketplace, this handsomely proportioned 1801 building first housed the Bank of the United States and then became Charleston’s City Hall in 1818. The design is attributed to Charlestonian Gabriel Manigault, a gentleman architect credited with introducing the Adamesque style to the city after studying in Europe.”

Also worth knowing: the building has some of the few public restrooms in downtown Charleston that are open on the weekend.

Charleston Walkabout

Here’s something I learned about the oldest part of Charleston, SC, when I visited recently: good to walk through, not so much to drive through. I could have guessed that anyway. Small streets, many cars, extremely restricted parking.

But early Saturday morning, when the cars roaming the streets were still few, wasn’t a bad time to come to town by car. I arrived and found a parking garage as soon as I could. On foot from there, on Cumberland St., I encountered traces of historic Charleston almost immediately in the form of the city’s most obscure plaque (maybe), fixed to the ground just north of the sidewalk on the north side of that street, between Meeting St. and Church St.

This Oak Was Planted In Celebration Of

ARBOR DAY 1984

It stands above a portion of the fortification wall that once protected the early Charleston settlement. The wall has been destroyed through time as the city spread beyond it’s [sic] original boundaries. The only visibly [sic] portion of the original fortification is the half moon battery, located in the basement of the Exchange Building.

Dedicated by the City of Charleston
Joseph B. Riley Jr., Mayor

Mr. Mayor, you could have ponied up a bit for a proofreader, considering that the text is in bronze. Anyway, the tree isn’t in the most picturesque part of Charleston.

Soon I moved on to better-looking urban core scenes. The city even has aesthetic water meter covers.
Charleston SC water meterThe palmetto is easy enough to figure out, but the cannons? According to one source (which says it’s “probably true”), the cannons refer to Col. William Moultrie’s victory over the British attack on Sullivan’s Island in 1776. Palmetto logs, which had some ability to absorb cannon fire, were used to reinforce the earthenwork defense.

St. Philip’s, an Episcopal church, stands fittingly on Church St. between Cumberland St. and Queen St.
St Philip's Episcopal Church, Charleston SCThe church, the third for this congregation and the second on this site, dates from 1838. The early history of the church, and Charles Towne for that matter, was one damn thing after another. From a short history of St. Philip’s on its web site:

1728-40: Fires, hurricane, epidemics of smallpox, yellow fever, slave uprisings, Indian attacks, threats of war from the Spanish occurred.

Ah, but Charleston flourished. Slave-cultivated rice, indigo and then cotton from the Carolinas did the trick (part of the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil). Highly skilled slaves, I understand, were involved in the wrought iron gates around St. Philip’s, which are a marvel by themselves.
St Philip's Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC iron gateNearby is the light pink Huguenot Church, dating from 1844, at the corner of Church and Queen. It was the first independent Huguenot congregation in America (more-or-less Calvinist, starting in the 1680s) and now the last one.
Huguenot Church, Charleston SCRainbow Row, the nickname for a stretch of East Bay St., features colorful row houses, 13 in all, mostly dating from the late 18th century.
Rainbow Row, Charleston SC 2017They’re in a tightly controlled historic preservation district, except for one thing: the owners get to choose the colors. The pastels were originally put on in the 1920s and occasionally change.
Rainbow Row Charleston SC 2017There are plenty of other handsome houses in that part of Charleston as well. Reminded me a bit of the East End of Galveston.

Charleston, SC 2017Charleston, SCCharleston, SC 2017All in all, a good place to see on foot, provided it isn’t summer.

The Church of the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of St. Sava

Next to the the cemetery of the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Lake County, which I visited on Saturday, is a handsome church building belonging to the monastery. There’s something about onion domes that pleases the eye.

The Serbian Orthodox Monastery of St. Sava

Even without the domes, the structure has a pleasing aspect to it. The cornerstone dates the building to 1925. Back then there couldn’t have been much around it besides farmland. Even now, the area nearby is mostly undeveloped.

I fully expected the building to be locked. It wasn’t. I went inside and found myself alone with its striking interior, albeit a little dark.

The church of St. Sava Monastery, Lake County Ill.A panoply of Jesus and saints and holy men — I assume that’s what I saw — graced pretty much every surface.

The Serbian Orthodox Monastery of St. SavaThe Serbian Orthodox Monastery of St. SavaAngles and demons, too.
The Serbian Orthodox Monastery of St. SavaLooking up.
The Serbian Orthodox Monastery of St. SavaKing Peter II of Yugoslavia used to be interred in the church. Here’s the spot where he was until a few years ago.
The Serbian Orthodox Monastery of St. Sava - King Peter II former gravePresumably the place is now a memorial to the king, marked with black stone instead of the white that used to be there.

I suspect that Peter’s story isn’t much known to Americans outside the Yugoslav diaspora. I only knew the outline, so I did some reading. Already on the throne, he was chased out of Yugoslavia at age 17 by the Nazis in 1941, and the post-war Tito government wasn’t interested in letting him return.

He spend much of his exile in the U.S., dying fairly young in 1970. For his own reasons, he wanted to be buried at St. Sava. Probably something to do with the schism going on within the Serbian Orthodox Church at the time, but I’m not going into the briar patch someone else’s schism by looking into the matter further. In any case, his son Alexander oversaw the repatriation of Peter’s remains to Serbia in 2013.

My reading lead me to the web site of the Royal Family of Serbia, which is how Alexander, the claimant to the throne, styles it. It’s a well-designed and sophisticated site, offering a lot of information about Alexander — who styles himself HRH Crown Prince Alexander — and his family.

“Although King Peter II died in 1970, the Crown Prince, as the heir to the throne decided at the time not to use the title of King – which he felt would have had little meaning in exile,” the site explains. “He made it very clear at that time that he was not renouncing his title, or the dynastic right to the throne.”

Unlike a lot of pretenders, Alexander and his family actually get to live in the palace of their ancestors, which is near Belgrade and which his grandfather built. He’s had a residence there since moving to then-Yugoslavia after the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević.

The web site’s news page is incredibly detailed, with hundreds of releases about the family’s activities stretching back a number of years. Some recent examples:

More than 1,200 children at traditional White Palace Christmas receptions

Royal couple at the celebration of the Chartwell International School

Crown Princess Katherine as the patron of the first regional Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award

Speech by Crown Prince Alexander at the monument of Vasa Carapic

Crown Prince Alexander at Military Museum exhibition opening

It occurs to me that Alexander is living precisely as he would, were he actually a constitutional monarch, and pretty much along the lines of the British approach (he grew up in the UK, after all, and was a captain in the 16th/5th The Queen’s Royal Lancers). No doubt he believes that if he acts like a monarch long enough and well enough, one day he or an heir will be King of Serbia.

The Cemetery of the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of St. Sava, Lake County

After leaving Marytown on Saturday, I headed north on Milwaukee Ave. A few miles from of Libertyville’s lively main streets, in an area not quite rural — call it exurban — is the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cemetery. At least, that’s a shortened form of the name, since there’s wording in English and Serbian over a gate on the property that calls the entire property (in English), the Serbian Orthodox Monastery of St. Sava.

Near the cemetery is a church, presumably the monastery’s church (more about which later). I didn’t investigate any of the other buildings off in the distance, which are presumably the places for monks to live and otherwise follow their vocation. The map also tells me that St. Sava College is a little ways up the road.

Anyway, I came to see the cemetery. It’s been receiving Orthodox Serbs for about 90 years. The place is thick with weighty headstones.

St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Cemetery

With a mix of Cyrillic and Roman lettering.
St. Sava Serbian Orthodox CemeteryThere’s little funerary art, as seen in cemeteries steeped in Western European traditions, unless you count variations on the Cross. A few stones told in some detail of the person at rest, at least if you read Serbian.
St. Sava Serbian Orthodox CemeterySome sites included wooden crosses along with stone markers. A few had no headstone at all.

Some stones are of a distinctly modern cast, and in English.
St. Sava Serbian Orthodox CemeteryI’ve read that Rod Blagojevich’s parents are in the cemetery, but I didn’t see their stone that I know of. Blago was recently in the news briefly for not being on President Obama’s commutation list during his last days in office. Tough luck, Rod. Politics ain’t beanbag.

Marytown

Everyone else had something to do Saturday afternoon, so I took advantage of the fact that winter isn’t particularly bitter right now — and neither snow nor ice is covering the ground — to buzz up to Lake County, Ill., for a few hours. I wanted to visit a spot on the map there I’ve seen for years but never gotten around to: Marytown. Or, the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

A Polish Franciscan, St. Maximilian Kolbe was murdered by the Nazis. We’d come across a memorial to him before, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Monastery in Munster, Ind. There he was a supporting player, so to speak. At Marytown, he’s the star of the show, after only Jesus and Mary.

The Marytown complex includes a Franciscan friary, a retreat and conference center, various outdoor shrines and a rosary garden, and a gift shop (where I bought postcards). It’s also home to the Marytown Press and is the American HQ for the movement that St. Maximilian Kolbe started, the Militia Immaculata.

For the purpose of my visit, however, Marytown is home to Adoration Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament. That’s what I’d heard was worth seeing, and it was. Here’s the exterior.

Adoration Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament - MarytownThe chapel, completed in 1930, was designed by architect Joseph W. McCarthy, who trained under Daniel Burnham and did a lot of Catholic churches in the Chicago area. I’ve read it was patterned after St. Paul’s Outside the Walls in Rome.

“The Benedictine Convent of Perpetual Adoration in Mundelein, known today as Marytown, was a special project of Cardinal George Mundelein, meant to keep alive the spirit of the 1926 Chicago Eucharistic Conference and provide for the spiritual needs of diocesan priests and seminarians at the newly built seminary next door,” writes Denis Robert McNamara in Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago.

This is the interior of the main chapel, as best as I could make an image. A fine combination of stained glass, mosaics and marble.
Adoration Chapel of Our Lady of t Most Blessed Sacrament, Marytown“The Benedictine Sisters maintained unbroken adoration of the Blessed Sacrament until they withdrew from the location in 1977, handing the complex over to the Conventual Franciscan Friars,” McNamara writes. “The Franciscans renamed the site Marytown and established the national shrine of St. Maxmilian Kolbe…”

One of the Adoration Chapel’s side chapels features is a mosaic stretching toward the ceiling of St. Maximilian Kolbe rising triumphant from Auschwitz. Right below it are some relics of his, which include beard hair — cut some years before he died in a place that would leave no earthly remains — a piece of a habit, a prayer book.

Outside the chapel, in the garden nearby, St. Francis makes an appearance in bronze, unsurprisingly, singing the Canticle of the Sun.

St Francis - Marytown

With a non-human audience.

St. Francis - Marytown

There are some other statues nearby and a rosary garden, which I’ve never encountered before. Or maybe never realized I’d encountered one before, since they seem to be fairly common.

MarytownMuch of the statuary was short on labels, so I’m not certain who this is supposed to be, though I’d guess an older St. Francis.