Holy Cross Church (Chicago)

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Holy Cross in Chicago
Holy Cross Church, Back of the Yards.jpg
General information
Architectural styleBaroque
Town or cityChicago
CountryUnited States
Construction started1904
ClientChicago Lithuanian community
Design and construction
ArchitectJoseph Molitor

Holy Cross in Chicago, referred to in Lithuanian as Šv. Kryžiaus bažnyčia, is a historic church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago located on West 46th Street in Chicago, Illinois. Built by Lithuanian immigrants, it bears a striking resemblance to many of Chicago's so-called "Polish Cathedrals" by virtue of the common heritage Poles and Lithuanians shared during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and reflected in their architectural tastes.


Founded in 1904 as a "national parish" for Lithuanians in Chicago living in the Back of the Yards area, most of whom were employed at the Chicago Stockyards. The parish fell on hard times in the 1970s after the closure of the stockyards, resulting in a merger with the neighboring parish of The Immaculate Heart of Mary. In 2004 the parish celebrated its 100-year anniversary. Today the parish is largely Latino and uses both churches for worship as well as a wide variety of activities, with around 3,000 parishioners turning out for mass each weekend.


The Baroque church, designed by Joseph Molitor, was completed in 1915. Chicago's Lithuanian churches were designed in the spirit of the architecture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as a statement affirming Lithuania's culture, and reaffirming ties to their former homeland. Its twin towers soar above the working class houses and two-flats of the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The church features bell towers, domes and ceramic tiles on the floor imported from Lithuania. The church is covered with paintings, statues, and stained glass windows. The ornate stations of the cross are by renowned painter Thaddeus von Zukotynski, whose work at the church was later restored by Chicago artist Sr. Mary Stanisia. A lofty dome covers the church's vast interior that was richly decorated in 1951 by Lithuanian artists who had sought refuge from the Soviet Union. Most notable among them was Adolfas Valeška who executed four oil paintings that depict scenes from Lithuanian and American history. The vaulted ceiling is supported by marble columns located near the walls and it is lined with more than 2,000 light bulbs that brighten the church, each within a rosette. The brightly colored stained glass windows were installed in 1943 and 1944 by the Chicago firm of Arthur Michaudel depicting scenes from the life of Christ and a number of saints. There are also two choir lofts as well as an organ with over 1,700 pipes. The church's architecture helped ease the transition from predominately Lithuanian to Latin American immigrant congregations since both ethnic groups would have found the Baroque stylings familiar to churches in their own countries of origin.

Holy Cross's architect, Joseph Molitor, also drew up the plans for two neighboring Roman Catholic churches in the Back of the Yards area of Chicago founded by Eastern European immigrants: St. Joseph's church for Poles and the now closed Sts. Cyril and Methodius church for Bohemians.

Holy Cross in architecture books[edit]

Holy Cross is featured in a number of books on Chicago architecture, most notably "The AIA Guide to Chicago" by Alice Sinkevitch (Harvest Books 2004). Holy Cross is also in a number of books devoted to church architecture, among them "Chicago Churches and Synagogues: An Architectural Pilgrimage" by George A. Lane (Loyola Press 1982), "Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago" by Denis R. McNamara (Liturgy Training Publications 2005), "The Archdiocese of Chicago: A Journey of Faith" by Edward R. Kantowicz (Booklink 2007), as well as "The Spiritual Traveler: Chicago and Illinois: A Guide to Sacred Sites and Peaceful Places" by Marylin Chiat (HiddenSpring 2004).

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Coordinates: 41°48′39″N 87°40′09″W / 41.8108°N 87.6691°W / 41.8108; -87.6691