Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral – Louis Sullivan

As I enter my third month here in Chicago, I am starting to get a deeper read on the city. While I know this read and journey will delve deeper and deeper as the years pass in Chicago, I’ve started to explore my neighborhood (Ukrainian Village) a bit more, with its amazing mix of cultural groups. It still amazes me that I see signs in Polish, Ukrainian, Spanish, Hungarian, and English all on my 10 minute walk to the bus stop in the morning. The vast amount of churches and cathedrals within a 10 minute walk of my house is amazing, which leads to:

Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, the last standing church designed by Louis Sullivan. It is also five blocks from my house. I came upon this while browsing through a book on the complete works of Adler and Sullivan that my office has in its conference room, and was amazed that something like this could be so close to my house. It definitely still feels as if I’m walking in my architectural history textbook as I’m traversing the city.

Holy Trinity was one of only two churches Sullivan designed during his career, and the only one currently still standing. It is an amazing mix of vernacular Russian Orthodox Church architecture and Sullivan’s personal ornamentation style (as seen via the entry portal). It is understated, yet extravagant at the same time.

The metalwork in the soffit and window jambs is a great contrast to the stucco finish (originally this stucco was a smooth finish, but is currently a more typical textured stucco), and also helps to show the thickness of the construction. The massive north facing window no doubt helps to fill the interior with light, and I hope to be able to take a tour of this building soon.

The attention to detail is what truly makes this church come alive. It beckons you to take a second look at what otherwise may be a typical church building. It speaks volumes that this little building of around 30’x100′ has been elevated to cathedral status by the Orthodox church, simply by the images that come to mind through the word cathedral (Stephansdom, Chartres, Cologne, Reims). This little cathedral truly holds its own with those much larger buildings and I look forward to the day I’m able to take the full tour.

Edit: In subsequent years, I was able to take a tour of the cathedral. Some photos are from original blog post. Others are from later dates.

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Josh Mings

Architect and painter. Columbus, IN born, New Orleans educated, Chicago living and trying to leave the world better than I found it.