There are no lava lamps inside St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

The bus to the church took us to the farthest western border of Chicago, meandering through a maze of dead mall parking lots and past a concrete replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It felt like we were traveling, well, as close to traveling as feasible without a car, during a pandemic.

I had that familiar traveling anxiety, centered on the great unknown: where was I going to find a bathroom? Not too promising while we walked to our destination…but there, a gas station with a public restroom! I ran inside and got in line to use the facilities, wearing gloves for warding off cooties despite the hot weather.. Just as HOB joined me, a man emerged from the bathroom politely reaching out to HOB with—horrors!—the dreaded Pee Stick (the wooden stick with an attached bathroom key that gas stations keep at the counter) and HOB grabs it. He actually touched the Pee Stick with his bare hands.

Anyway, after I got done dowsing HOB with hand sanitizer and yelling at him to never, ever, ever touch a Pee Stick again, we continued on in search of the church. Cutting through a strip mall parking lot and there it was: St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

I had looked at photos but really wasn’t prepared for this funk-modern ode to seventies optimism peaking out from behind a Dunkin Donuts, under low flying planes about to land at O’Hare airport.

I’m trying to understand how this church came to be. I’m certain there were some Ukrainians and they wanted a church. Probably they formed a committee. That committee was all “Hmmmmm…what kind of church should we build? How about…13 futuristic elevator shaft-like towers topped with golden boobs? Great!”

Completed in 1977, St. Joseph the Betrothed Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was designed by Zenon Mazurkevick. While we were marveling at Mr. Mazurkevick’s achievement, I said to HOB, “I really wish we could look inside.” And immediately a church caretaker, who had overheard, asked another man to let us inside.

Judging from the righteous 70’s modern exterior, I expected the church’s interior to feature shag carpeting, bean bag chairs in place of pews, lava lamps instead of candles, and macramé owls holding up icons. Oh, and a priest giving out communion in the form of fondue.

Nope. The interior of St. Joseph the Betrothed did not feature any seventies flair.

Rather it was lovely and traditional, with the elevator shaft towers flooding the space with light.

Here’s where the priest sits, behind the iconostasis.

Notice that the dominant colors of the cupola reflect those of the Ukrainian flag.

All of the church fixtures were pretty and rather pristine.

I love it when a church gets all meta and has little versions of the church incorporated into the church fixtures and frescos.

Here’s that St. Joseph the Betrothed selection committee I was talking about earlier, celebrating their selection of their boob-elevator church, painted behind their halos.

After all that hard work, the selection committee relaxed in a hot tub.

DON’T STARE AT HIS FIVE HEAD.

And so it is written, he shall wear a Vuitton robe to distribute the holy communion.

Even the side doors get a fresco—these dudes are like “This way to the priest’s sacristy.”

At least Christ looks like he belongs in the funky seventies modern church I imagined. (I also want to give the fresco artist a high five for using geographically and historically accurate skin tones).

After our tour of the interior, we continued outside for a longer look at the architecture. Not to worry, we didn’t ride bikes or skateboards.

However, we did eat a picnic, watched over by a flamboyantly crowed Mary and baby Jesus in a charming shrine.

16 comments

  1. I would never have imagined the interior from the exterior…what a super visit/1

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We really were fortunate to go inside—at that point most churches were still closed for Covid. We even got our picnic at the cathedral. Super indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The interior looks quite contemporary compared to the interior paintings. Here’s a local Ukranian church: https://cyclewriteblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/smallerstvladimir.jpg

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I see it has that same light blue color from the Ukrainian flag. I like the wood in the iconostasis.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The exterior is “Hmmmmmm…” but it seems to be a worthwhile visiting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I rather enjoy seeing a church that isn’t just another revival of something or another. Does make me go Hmmmmmm though. : )

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nemorino · · Reply

    Just goes to show you can see the world without even leaving Chicago. I’m glad to learn they didn’t call 911 on you while you were having your picnic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good thing we didn’t eat our picnic while skateboarding….

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That looks like something I flew over one the way to O’Hare once. Didn’t see the Dunkin Donut though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t throw a stone without hitting a Dunkin Donut or Starbucks in Chicago. They used to be valuable sources of public bathrooms, now not so much.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks so much for sharing this edifice with us, I really did marvel at the exterior design with its nods to the expected silhouette twinned with innovative details and materials.

    And while I loved the traditional elements of the surface decoration inside I have to say that I’m often disappointed by modern interiors after the promise offered by outside views — apart from the tabernacle echoing the structure every painted or tesselated image harked back a millennium or more. But I definitely do prefer traditional to some of the botched attempts at modernism I’ve seen applied to interior iconography in some 20C churches.

    Oh, and I loved the tongue in cheek commentary, only po-faced sanctimonious pedants would baulk at it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I think if you’re going to commit to a style, it should be done inside and out. I’m thinking of some lovely Art Nouveau, with the exterior and all interior furnishings, plus stained glass, in harmony.

      The commentary runs in my head perpetually, glad you can appreciate.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. From afar that looks like a stack of foam cans – shaving form, instant whipped cream, that sort of stuff.

    Quite interesting to see that a Catholic church has a pretty Orthodox layout, iconostasis, inner sanctum and all… I can almost hear the Pope going “Hey, this is a little bit too Byzantium”.

    Like

    1. Pope Francis seems like a dude with a sense of humor. I’m thinking he might dig the whole “Foam Can Topped with Gold Boobs” aesthetic…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. cath.anon · · Reply

    That’s one groovy church. We almost became Orthodox ourselves. I always loved their love of icons everywhere. Surrounded by saints!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like Orthodox music too, especially in Georgian churches.

      Like

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