National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica

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See also the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower in San Antonio, Texas
Shrine of the Little Flower

National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica Catholic Church in Royal Oak, Michigan is a well known Roman Catholic church and National Shrine executed in the lavish zig-zag Art Deco style. The structure was completed in two stages between 1931 and 1936. The sanctuary stands at 2100 West Twelve Mile Road at the northeast corner of Woodward Avenue and is a parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit. Construction was funded by the proceeds of the radio ministry of the controversial Father Charles Coughlin who broadcast from the tower during the 1930s.

Father Coughlin was an early supporter of the New Deal programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt before becoming one of Roosevelt's harshest critics. In 1934 he announced a new political organization called the National Union for Social Justice. For a few years, the American public responded strongly: "Contributions which have flooded into his bank account as a result of these talks run into thousands of dollars weekly."[1] The membership ran into the millions, but it was not well-organized at the local level. He wrote a platform calling for monetary reforms, the nationalization of major industries and railroads, and protection of the rights of labor, issuing antisemitic commentaries and supporting some policies of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. After the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939, it was the Roosevelt administration that finally forced the cancellation of his radio program and forbade the dissemination through the mail of his newspaper, Social Justice.[2]


Named in honor of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux (who was also known as the Little Flower), the church was first built in 1926 in a largely Protestant area.[3][4] It was founded in 1925, a year before construction started. Two weeks after it opened, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in front of the church.[5] The original wood structure was destroyed by a fire March 17, 1936.[6][7] Construction of the new building started in 1931 and ended in 1936. Its completion was spurred by the destruction of the old structure and it employed large amounts of copper and stone to execute the designs of architect Henry J. McGill, of the New York firm of McGill and Hamlin.

Pope Francis designated the Shrine a minor basilica January 31, 2015.[8][9]



The Charity Crucifixion Tower
The octagonal nave from the balcony with the chapel entrance visible in the rear.

A dramatic limestone Art Deco tower called the Charity Crucifixion Tower, completed in 1931, features integrated figural sculptures by Rene Paul Chambellan, including a large figure of Christ on the cross, 28 ft (8.5 m) high on the Woodward Avenue façade. It was built as a response to the Ku Klux Klan as a "cross they could not burn".[11] The sides and rear feature windows inside the crucifix which can be lit from within. At the upper corners of the tower are symbols of the Four Evangelists. Carved below the feet of the figure of Christ are the Seven Last Words from the Cross. Just below them is a doorway with "Charity" and "Christ Crucified" carved above it. On the sides of the doorframe are depictions of items associated with the Passion. The doorway leads to a small balcony which can serve as a pulpit. On the front are carved depictions the Archangels Jophiel, Raphael, Michael, Gabriel and Uriel. The pulpit is flanked by depictions of John the Apostle and the Virgin Mary to the left and a Roman Centurion holding a spear and Mary Magdalene on the right.[12] Across the terrace facing the crucifix a depiction of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is carved into the surrounding wall. This sculpture is also by Chambellan.

Behind the tower are doors leading to a large chapel that connect the tower with the main sanctuary. The altar of the chapel is within the base of the tower. The octagonal nave seats three thousand on two levels, with the altar in the center. The main building is granite and limestone, with exterior and elaborate interior sculptural work by Corrado Parducci, including a lectern and Stations of the Cross, and hand-painted murals by Beatrice Wilczynski. The octagon-shaped granite baptismal font was designed by liturgical artists Robert Rambusch and Mario Agustin Locsin y Montenegro.

In 1998, the United States Bishops' Conference declared the site a National Shrine, one of only five in the country according to the church's web site.


Father Coughlin broadcast his popular radio program from the tower of the Basilica. As the 1930s wore on, his broadcasts became increasingly anti-Semitic. After the start of World War II, the Roosevelt administration worked to shut him down and managed it by convincing his bishop to instruct him to stop.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ward, Louis B. (1933). Father Charles E. Coughlin: An Authorized Biography. Detroit: Tower Publications Inc. p. 207. From the Detroit Free Press, March 29, 1933.
  2. ^ Lawrence, John Shelton; Jewett, Robert (1 June 2002). The Myth of the American Superhero. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. pp. 130–132. ISBN 978-0802825735.
  3. ^ a b Marcus, Sheldon (1973). Father Coughlin: The Tumultuous Life of the Priest of the Little Flower. Little, Brown, and Company. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-0316545969.
  4. ^ Tull, Charles J. (1965). Father Coughlin and the New Deal. Syracuse University Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-0815600435.
  5. ^ Shannon, William V. (1989) [1963]. The American Irish: a political and social portrait. p. 298. ISBN 978-0-87023-689-1. OCLC 19670135.
  6. ^ Hutting, Albert M. (1998) [1936]. Shrine of the Little Flower. Royal Oak, MI: Radio League of the Little Flower. OCLC 32783964.
  7. ^ "Old Coughlin Church is Destroyed by Fire". The New York Times. Associated Press. 18 March 1936. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
  8. ^ Hicks, Mark (January 31, 2015). "Pope names Shrine of the Little Flower a basilica". The Detroit News.
  9. ^ "Pope Francis grants National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak honorary title of Minor Basilica" (Press release). Archdiocese of Detroit. January 31, 2015. Retrieved 2016-02-09.
  10. ^ "Pastors and Priests in Service to Shrine Parish". University of Detroit Mercy. Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  11. ^ Levin, Doron P. (25 May 1992). "Royal Oak Journal; Bitter Memories of Anti-Semitism Live On in Michigan Parish". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
  12. ^ Patterson, Jim; Perrone, Bob (July 2007). "Rene Paul Chambellan - One of Art Deco's Greatest Sculptors". Louisville Art Deco. Retrieved 2013-11-19.

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