Skipping ahead in my Chicago adventures, one of my very last experiences was a spontaneous trip as I returned to a Chicago Transit Authority train station. I was near the Lincoln Park Zoo; however, I twice saw signs for St. Michael Church. “If a church got tourist signs, this has to be good,” I thought.
I was pleasantly surprised by this impromptu detour! The church well-represents Old Town, standing at over 160 years old. For a quickie experience, not bad at all!
St. Michael Church Courtyard
You’ll know when you reach this church. The imposing steeple rises above the Old Town neighborhood and sits facing a courtyard designed for people traffic only. Nice! After witnessing crazy Chi-Town vehicle traffic for nearly a week, a city safezone? I immediately thought about my time in Spain and the enjoyable strolls through streets built for pedestrians. If it had not been so windy and blindingly sunny, I might have enjoyed my time in the courtyard a bit better. I mean, look at the picture above. That tree is trying to lean sideways as if Olympic gymnastics were its occupation! Tree…your job is to stand there, look pretty, and make me some oxygen. I hope that’s not too discriminatory toward tree-kind. I just need to speak truth here.
St. Michael Church Interior
Moving on, I found the church’s Catholic interior with classic European influence impressive. More Europe?! Yep! More Europe! The vibe notwithstanding, I was seriously glad to be inside. You can see the wind strength and my consequently disheveled hair in the video. Being out of the wind in this kind of spectacular manner was a definitive parting gift from the city. I set to exploration, marveling at the beautiful lighting, windows, and interior facades detailing the life of Christ.
The stained glass windows date to the early 1900s. The altars, of which there are five, are tastefully spread throughout the church. There’s even an old organ known as a Kilgen Organ sitting at the back of the church in the balcony area which also dates to the early 1900s, nearly 100 years old! There’s history here, and it’s in every corner of the church!
Probably the best discovery, albeit the saddest, was the fact that the church had people sleeping inside. Kudos to this church for welcoming the needy and demonstrating what they preach. (Soapbox Sidebar: Folks, contribute to your communities and fellow man! Yes, I’m talkin’ to you! Volunteer time, money, skills…something.) I tried to be extra quiet because of this. It actually made the visit that much more memorable. Not that I make it a habit to run and scream inside Catholic churches. Because I don’t. Seriously. Okay, stop looking at me with that raised eyebrow. Seriously, I don’t!
Running and screaming are reserved for my life with scissors.
Chicago Spirit Secure
This visit wasn’t on a tour day (Sunday after morning mass) so my exploration was solo as well as quick. But it was certainly a memorable and worthwhile detour. I mentioned on my intro story to Chicago that I was impressed by the Welcoming Heart of Chicago. This church, wide open and free to all visitors no matter if tourists or homeless, wrapped up those feelings in a tight Chicagoan nutshell. With a bow. If you’re in the Old Town area (and especially on foot), do yourself a favor and check out St. Michael Church. You’ll appreciate its beauty and a heart for those in need.
And if the wind is blowing that day and you have long, luscious locks like me…God be with you. At least, you’ll be in the right place.