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Fourth Presbyterian Church Chicago
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© Christine Till
In 1871 two churches merged to form Fourth Presbyterian Church. The new congregation worshiped at Superior and Rush from 1874 until 1914, when it moved to its current location on North Michigan Avenue's "Magnificent Mile," which was back then unwanted real estate across from an open field. Now the malls and high-rises of the "Magnificent Mile" bear down on it from all sides.
Built by Ralph Adams Cram, America's leading Gothic revival architect, best known for his work on the world's largest Gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the gothic 4th Presbyterian Church is - except for the Old Water Tower - the oldest building on Michigan Avenue north of the Chicago River. However, Fourth Church is not a copy of any one building but instead combines what Mr. Cram saw as the best of English Gothic and French Gothic styles. Carvings abound in the sanctuary as well in the form of an intricately worked timber ceiling - resembling an upended ship - and 14 seven foot tall angels keeping watch over the congregants. The church interior is a place to ponder the immaterial amid the siren calls of materialism.
Home to wealthy congregants and influential pastors, 4th Presbyterian soon earned a civic and national reputation befitting its magnificent Gothic structure. Called "a social settlement with a spire," the church reached out to the poor in the nearby "Little Hell" neighborhood. Known throughout its history for preaching, community outreach, education, music, and the arts, Fourth Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) has positioned itself as a model for mainline Protestantism in the new century.
Fourth Presbyterian Church is a visual and spiritual oases among the modern towers built by merchant princes to the gods of money. Go in, sit and meditate, enjoy the beauty of its architectural detail and the relief it provides from the glitz and hype of the rest of Chicago's upper Michigan Avenue.
March 7th, 2013
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