Groundbreaking for Saint Joseph Seminary at Loyola University

There will be a groundbreaking ceremony at Loyola University’s Lake Shore campus tomorrow morning (Monday, February 21, 2011) for the new Saint Joseph College Seminary building.

New Saint Joseph Seminary building exterior. From Loyola University.

Drawings from the Loyola University web site show that it won’t look like much from the outside — mostly a pretty generic brick facade.  Which is a shame, since it’s going to be part of a campus which has some truly remarkable pieces of architecture on it.

Interior of the new Saint Joseph Seminary building chapel

But inside, the new seminary is much better.  The chapel is simple, and dignified, with the standard configuration for a Chicago-area church.  None of the fancy West Coast setups I’ve been exploring lately.  Ones that are different just to be different, and provide for an uncomfortable and distracting worship experience.

But the real stars of the show are the windows.

A lot of churches these days are skipping the traditional stained glass and going for cheaper, more modern alternatives.  Some are dropping windows altogether as they transition from places of gathering into stadia.

This is a shame, because there’s more to stained glass windows than just being pretty.

Some of the dozens of stained glass windows for the new Saint Joseph Seminary building.

Have you ever noticed how proper church windows look really ugly and grey from the outside, but are wonderful and beautiful on the inside?  This is done on purpose.  The light show is one of the things that is designed to draw people inside, and reward them once they’re there.

In the days before literacy and books were widespread, they were designed to tell stories and educate.

There are dozens of similar visual cues and metaphors in most churches.

Hundreds of books have been written about this sort of thing over the years.  Unfortunately, the New Church of Internet Atheism preaches that if it’s not online, it doesn’t exist.  Because of this philosophy, mankind is losing 99% of its history.  But that’s a rant for another day.

Does it work?  Heck, yeah.  Just ask the docent at Fourth Presbyterian Church (125 East Chestnut Street), across from the John Hancock Center (875 North Michigan Avenue).  Every day tourists who see the church’s rose window from the outside wander inside to behold its full magnificence.

If you have a minute, check out the web site for the new Saint Joseph Seminary building, and you can see all of the new windows.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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