“Similar, But Still Special: Gothic Styled Churches” Contributed by Veronica Martin

In 1874, Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois, took the place of two other churches, Cathedral of Saint Mary and the Church of the Holy Name, after they burned down during the Chicago fire the same year. The new cathedral was designed by a number of people including; Patrick Keely, Henry Schlacks, Charles Murphy, and Joseph McCarthy. The cathedral showcased Gothic revival style. Also known as Neo-Gothic, the Gothic revival style took off in the 19th century as designers wanted to bring back the medieval style of buildings. To showcase this type of architecture the Cathedral features traditional Gothic styles like a giant rose window, rip vaults, and buttresses along with the revival styles of lancet windows and finials.

Holy Name
Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois

Lancet windows, as seen in the picture, are long, narrow windows with a pointed arch at the top. Finals can appear at the top of towers, domes, spires, and roofs. Usually carved out of stone, these decorative features can come in a variety of shapes. The Holy Name Cathedral has one in the shape of a blue cross that rests on the top of a spires.

Front View of Holy Name Cathedral

With a gorgeous bell tower, the Trinity Episcopal Church stands tall above it’s neighbors on Center Avenue in Bay City, Michigan. This Gothic style church was designed by Phillips  C. Ploeter and built in 1885. After two years of construction, the church was complete and consecrated. The church was it’s third building after the two previous buildings became too small with an ever growing congregation. To help predict for future growth, the newest building was much bigger than the others and allowed for easier expansion. Sticking to more traditional Gothic styles, Trinity features buttresses, grouped lancet windows, and a large tower.

Trinity Episcopal Church in Bay City, Michigan

While Holy Name also lancet windows, all of Trinity’s windows are grouped together in pairs or groups of three rather than some being separated like Holy Name. Besides that small difference, these two churches miles apart seem to be copies of one another. Both feature a single high tower, cross finials on the top of their spires, buttresses, and arched doorways. Buttresses, or a projecting support of stone or brick built against a wall, were often built in both traditional and revival Gothic architecture and is also found on both churches.

Front View of Trinity Episcopal Church

Churches are home for worship and growing families. Holy Name Cathedral was built to take the place of two churches before it and took in the worshiping families who no longer had a home. Trinity Episcopal Church was expanding quicker than new buildings could be built. The congregation needed to plan for the future so they created a building that would allow for a large family and easier reconstruction for a bigger home.

Gothic architecture from traditional to revival has been widely used in churches and cathedrals around the world for many years. While many building using this style of architecture look very similar, the details that each individual church stand out even more.  When decorations are added to building they are more specific to it. Each church had details that the other did, such as the blue cross finials on Holy Name or the iron cross on Trinity. While both are the same feature and symbol the material and design of them is far different. Gothic architecture demands an amazing attention to detail that both these churches has and displays.


Work Cited

Trinity Episcopal Church of Bay City; June 8 2014



Gothic Architecture; 2013


Holy Name Cathedral; 2009



Mid-19th Century Period: Gothic Revival Style 1830-1860; 2014



Architectural Style Guide; 2014



6 thoughts on ““Similar, But Still Special: Gothic Styled Churches” Contributed by Veronica Martin

  1. Hi Veronica,

    I have to admit that I considered stealing Bay City as my hometown for this assignment because there are so many beautiful and historic buildings. The town hall is just amazing… and the churches! I love historic churches, and the Trinity Episcopal Church is just one of many amazing churches in Bay City. My hometown of Mount Pleasant dramatically suffers in comparison.

    You so effectively used the vocabulary of Gothic architecture in your post that I wondered if this is a special interest of yours. I definitely could have used your sources and perspective when writing my own post!


  2. Hello Vern,
    I have to agree with Donna about your vocabulary of Gothic architecture! I think old churches are my favorite thing to look at. I love so much about old churches but the rose windows and the towers are two of my favorite things about these churches. I think even the older understated churches are great to explore and contemplate. I am lucky to live in Bay City(this will be my first summer here) and plan on taking advantage of that and exploring a bunch of old churches and museums and hopefully join a house tour if I can find one this summer.

  3. Hey Veronica, I found your use of the architectural language made the similarities between the buildings become very clear. I also liked that the two buildings shared a history of being rebuilt. I thought the two buildings shared the common goal of emanating a gothic cathedral from the medieval period.

  4. Hey Vern!

    When I moved to Bay City I became in love with all the churches there were and just the significance that they hold. I guess I never really looked close enough to see that maybe some the churches had the same designs. I just admired them a big detailed buildings. Its crazy to think that the two churches are in two different states and look so similar.


  5. Your post has given me more knowledge on Neo-Gothic and Gothic styles. Until going to Chicago I really knew nothing about that style.

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