St. John of Rila Church (Chicago)

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St. John of Rila in Chicago, referred to in Bulgarian as 'Tsurkva Sveti Ivan Rilski' is a historic church of the Orthodox Church of America located in Chicago, Illinois. It is considered to be one of the most aesthetically noteworthy churches in the Portage Park area of Chicago.


The church building was originally built and housed a Lutheran congregation under the name of the Peace Lutheran Church.[1] The building was put up for auction as Peace Lutheran consolidated its parish with a number of other Lutheran congregations on Chicago's Northwest Side.[1] The congregation of St. John of Rila, Wonderworker which had formed in February 1996 was looking for a church of its own as it had been celebrating services in the Holy Cross Chapel at St. Andrew Greek Orthodox Church in Chicago.[1] After winning the highly competitive auction, the first services at the new beautiful church were celebrated on February 7, 1999.[2]

Today, St. John of Rila is an extremely important center for Bulgarians in Chicago because of the specificity of national churches in America to function not only as a place of worship, but also as an important social center devoted to maintaining the language, culture and tradition of the Bulgarian diaspora through Sunday schools and social gatherings.[3]

In October 2003, Princess Marie Louise of Bulgaria toured the church.


Originally constructed in 1928, this beautiful brick and limestone church building has approximately 3,979 square feet (369.7 m2) above grade area, including a 552-square-foot (51.3 m2) balcony, overlooking the main church floor which seats approximately 216 people.[2] The original interior has been adapted to conform to Eastern Orthodox liturgical requirements, and a traditional hand carved iconostasis has been installed. The 3,427-square-foot (318.4 m2) finished basement has a large auditorium with a stage used for theatrical and cultural performances."[4] The parish house which is attached to the church building was completed in 1923 and served as the main place of worship until the church's completion in December 1928.[5]

In 2008, the Church underwent a renovation. The sanctuary, which was previously located at the west end of the church, was moved to the east end to fulfill the requirement for Bulgarian Orthodox Churches. A new entrance was built as well since the old one was located at the east end.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Lutheran Church of Peace - Lutheran Churches of Chicago - ELCA Archives Archived 2007-08-17 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b OCA - Parish Listings
  3. ^ Pogorzelski, Daniel and Maloof, John: Portage Park, Arcadia Press, 2008, p. 69
  4. ^ Pogorzelski, Daniel and Maloof, John: Portage Park, Arcadia Press, 2008, p. 68
  5. ^ Archived from the original on August 17, 2007. Retrieved September 4, 2007. Missing or empty |title= (help)

Coordinates: 41°57′31″N 87°46′33″W / 41.95873°N 87.77597°W / 41.95873; -87.77597