Sacred Landmarks Tour Explores Cleveland Architectural Treasures
By Allison Tillinger Schmid
Thirty-eight art lovers climbed aboard Lolly the Trolley on Saturday, November 13, for a morning full of Cleveland church history and relic and reliquary viewing. The tour, one of many programs offered in conjunction with the museum’s current exhibition, Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe, took the group to two Cleveland churches: St. Stanislaus in Slavic Village and St. Michael’s in Tremont.
David Krakowksi, Director of Liturgy and Music at St. Stanislaus, talks with the group
Renowned Cleveland expert Tim Barrett started with a short history of both churches. (Did you know that there are approximately 4000 stars painted on the ceiling of St. Stanislaus or that in the early 20th century the altar at St. Michael’s was once surrounded by 1200 electric light bulbs?) The two churches are considered contemporaries of each other: construction of St. Stanislaus started in 1886 and finished in 1891 while construction of St. Michael’s lasted from 1887 to 1892. Both are are built in the High Victorian Gothic Style where the idea of horror vacui, the fear of empty space, is still apparent today by the number of statues, paintings and details almost completely covering the churches’ interiors.
Tim Barrett pointing out St. Celecia reliquary
At St. Stanislaus, there are many relics dispersed throughout the church, including that of the church’s namesake whose relic is the centerpiece of the shrine area and the mitre of John Paul II. The six niches in the high altar contain the relics of Saints Bonaventure, Clare, the Holy Cross, Francis, Gemma, John Baptist Vianney, and Pius X. Another niche contains the relics of Saints George, Gerard, James, Ignatius of Loyola, Julian, Ivan, Joseph Leonissa, Lawrence, Louis, Nicafi, Sebastian, Theodosius and Theresa of the Infant Jesus. At St. Michael’s, behind a low, horizontal door covered in wood grain contact paper underneath the right altar lies the reliquary of St. Cecelia. This reliquary is a full-size statue complete with human hair, glass eyes, a palm frond in her right hand, and a scarlet cape over a cream dress, giving the church goer the impression that St. Cecelia was indeed once at St. Michael’s! What an amazing sight! Seeing the relics and reliquaries in the context of these two churches’ history and architecture was absolutely incredible.