October 13, 2018

Photo Essay: Chicago's Chapel in the Sky (Or, The World's Tallest Church Building)

Oh, how Chicago loves its skyscrapers. Sure, it's not quite as dense as Manhattan is, but the Windy City always seems to be trying to break some kind of record with its tall buildings.

Not only is there the Sears Tower (tallest building in the world in 1973) and John Hancock Center (second-tallest building in the world in 1968)—stay tuned for photo essays from both of those—but there's also the Chicago Temple Building, which houses the tallest church in the world.

It's a skyscraper church, built in 1924 to house the First United Methodist Church (and the tallest skyscraper in Chicago until 1930).

Technically the church occupies just the bottom couple of floors and the top couple of floors, with a bunch of leased offices on the floors in between.

The real draw to the Chicago Temple Building is, of course, the SkyChapel—way up at the top, just beneath the spire—but first, you've got to visit the mini museum that honors the men who inspired the creation of the United Methodist Church.

That is, the life and teachings of John Wesley and his brother Charles.

Climbing up the building, on one of the parsonage floors you'll find an outdoor patio, where you can look at both the steeple and the sky...

...and compare heights of the even taller buildings that have sprung up around the skyscraper church over the last 95 years.

Surprisingly, no one else was out there, admiring the view.

But up there, 22 floors above the traffic and the tourists on their way to the other towers of Chicago, it's heavenly and peaceful.

But the climbing isn't over, because past an intermediary floor marked by a saltire (a.k.a. St. Andrew's cross)...

Photo: Jeff Gunn (via Flickr, CC by 2.0) climb another narrow staircase and emerge into the chapel at the base of the steeple (and try to catch your breath).

You need someone with a key to bring you up there, unless you book it for a wedding or christening.

It only seats 30 people, so all the regular church services are held downstairs in the sanctuary that holds 1000.

But it's worth it to find your way up here, in the clouds, to bask in the colors of the stained glass windows...

...learn a bit about the history of Christianity...

...ponder Moses and the burning bush...

...the sacrificial lamb...

...and the holy cherubim.

While the Chicago Temple is still the tallest church building in the world, the architectural firm of Holabird & Root outdid themselves in 1930 with the Chicago Board of Trade Building, which unseated the Chicago Temple as Chicago's highest.

Personally I'd love to see a chapel of some sort—of any or no denomination—on the top of every tall building.

Because if there's a heaven, I'd like to take an elevator there, instead of climbing up to it one step at a time.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The Locked Chapels of Rose Hills
Photo Essay: Climbing to the Top of The Cathedral of St. John the Divine

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