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Sacred Spaces: Chicago

Chicago Cultural Center - Tiffany Dome (Credit: Pablo Jones)

Chicago Cultural Center - Tiffany Dome (Credit: Pablo Jones)

Introduction
Within this "City of Big Shoulders," lies a vast network of spires and steeples. Churches, synagogues and mosques appear like hidden jewels buried within the fabric of the city, integrated into the urban grid and set amidst Loop skyscrapers. As an organization, Chicago is our physical home, where Sacred Space International was born and it's a city we know well. The curated selection of sacred spaces we present in the guide have leaders who expressed interest in interfaith understanding and collaborated with us in our work. Architecturally, they encompass the magnificent and the modest, from the soaring nine-sided structure of the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette, to the Downtown Islamic Center -- a quiet, unassuming space, hidden behind a commercial storefront.

Look at this city through the lens of its religious architecture and gain an appreciation for the people who carved out their space -- setting it aside from everyday life for the purpose of ritual, worship or simply peace. Mainly, we chose spaces sited in or near the Downtown Loop, but we also included a small group of historically and architecturally significant sites at the periphery of the city.

The evolution of Chicago as a center for architecture has been well documented. Its other history as an historical hub for interfaith dialogue is lesser known. The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, also known at the Chicago World's Fair, was the site for the First Parliament of the World's Religions. As a result, the Baha'is chose to stay here and build their only temple in North America. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, came to share her new religion with the rest of the world -- and took the influence of the Beaux Arts style back to Boston when she left. The continuity of architectural evolution and interfaith dialogue make Chicago an ideal city to explore sacred space. We hope you are inspired to visit and uncover the same beauty and marvels we experienced when we entered inside this group of sacred spaces. We know you will be awed by what you find.

Deirdre Colgan,
Executive Director, Sacred Space International
Chicago, 2010

The Chicago Temple - Sky Chapel (Credit: Sarah Tranum)

The Chicago Temple - Sky Chapel (Credit: Sarah Tranum)

Download the Chicago Sacred Spaces Guide
The guide includes maps and three suggested tour routes. The following Sacred Spaces are featured:
• Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
• Baha'i House of Worship
• Chicago Cultural Center -- Tiffany & G.A.R. Domes
• The Chicago Temple
• Christ the Savior Orthodox Church
• Downtown Islamic Center
• First St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church
• Fourth Presbyterian Church
• GracePlace
• Holy Name Cathedral
• The Moody Church
• North Shore Congregation Israel
• Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist
• Unity Temple

Download the Chicago guide here (PDF).

Tell us about your experience on the tour or your favorite Sacred Space in Chicago. Create a page in the God in America Faithbook or submit a video to WGBH Lab's Open Call, or leave us a comment below.

About Sacred Space International
Sacred Space International was founded in 2002 by Suzanne Morgan to promote interfaith education and dialogue through the understanding of religious architecture. Morgan, a retired architect with expertise in liturgical design, started the organization in response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent climate of social tension, cultural misunderstanding and fear. She conceived the idea of religious architecture as a catalyst for interfaith dialogue and education. Without promoting any single faith or tradition, the organization seeks to use the common language of architecture as an educational means to foster reciprocal respect, awareness and appreciation of the different traditions that comprise our pluralistic society.

Visit Sacred Space International's website for more information.

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Published October 11, 2010

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