Posted in projects on June 19, 2017 1:07 pm EDT

Chicago Shrine Rising from the Ashes

On the morning of Oct. 7, 2015, during restoration at the Shrine of Christ the King on Chicago's south side, a fire broke out, destroying large parts of the roof, choir loft, windows, and interior. Today, the historic church is once again on the mend.

Image from











Sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter Designer Today to stay up to date with all we do at Designer and with what's going on in the field of house of worship architecture.


TAGS: architectural design, fundraising, historic preservation, house of worship, renovation,


By Church Designer Staff

According to a report on architect Bailey Edward's website, Chicago's Shrine of Christ the King, designed by renowned church architect Henry J. Schlacks, is getting a third chance at renovation. The edited Bailey Edward's report follows.

When Schlacks applied classical models from Italy into his design of the Shrine of Christ the King church (historically known as St. Clara/St. Gelasius) on the south side of Chicago, he could not anticipate the church burning like a Roman candle. Unfortunately, on the morning of October 7, 2015, during restoration, a fire broke out in the church, destroying large parts of the roof, choir loft, windows, and interior.

Due to the efforts of the Institute of Christ the King religious order, the church is rising from the ashes, also in part due to work from Partners for Sacred Places, a non-profit organization of preservationists and strategists that specializes in fundraising campaigns for historic church congregations; the non-profit is based in Philadelphia and has an office in Chicago. Bailey Edward’s Robin Whitehurst, AIA and board member for Partners for Sacred Places, and the rest of the Partners' board members received a tour of the historic landmark from Canon Matthew Talarico during their quarterly meetings to view the progress on the phased renovations.

Progress reports

As of May 6, 2017, the Shrine of Christ the King's website reported this progress:

"Preparation work for the installation of the steel has begun at the Shrine. The interior plaster wall demolition has also started. The walls being opened to the elements for two winters has unfortunately damaged the plaster beyond repair. Thankfully though, last fall the interior of the church was digitally preserved through a scanning process which will allow for a compete rebuild of all the interior details of the columns, freeze and other plaster details."

Prep work for installation of steel; image courtesy of Bailey Edwards.

As of June 1, 2017, the Shrine's website reported this:

"Scaffolding has been removed and the concrete repairs to the decks and the beams has been completed. The limestone lintel on the south face of the tower ... was extremely compromised in the fire, leaving the structural integrity questionable. The lintel was removed and replaced with a concrete beam. The existing concrete beam below the lintel was also removed and replaced with concrete. Each level of the bell tower received concrete patching in areas where the fire damage was the greatest."

Fundraising for restoration

The Institute engaged the services of Partners for Sacred Places in fall 2016 to conduct a study on the Shrine’s fundraising potential. Partners made recommendations based on its findings for implementing a fundraising strategy for the Institute, involving both Catholic and preservation communities. At the present time, Partners team is working closely with the Institute to lay the foundation for an organized capital campaign, while carrying out programs for grant-writing and major donor solicitation.

Partners for Sacred Places, Chicago.

As the campaign structure and process develop under the direction of Partners for Sacred Places in the coming months, Partners will be offering training workshops for the benefit of Shrine faithful and friends who want to take part in the Institute’s fundraising campaign by contributing their input and volunteer efforts as a Shrine family for its success.

Find future progress updates and fundraising information on the Shrine's website here: (visit link).




Learn more about the companies in this story:

Bailey Edward Design Inc.


Partners for Sacred Places



What people are saying


 Add your comment:


Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?


Please enter the word you see in the image below: