Holy Toledo

inToledo  |  12/10/2008

The phrase, “Holy Toledo” supposedly comes from this era of Toledo’s grand church construction. One legend has it that the expression came from a visitor being driven up Collingwood Boulevard and, after seeing the dozen or so churches, temples, and Holy Rosary Cathedral, exclaimed, “Holy Toledo, you’ve got a lot of churches in this town.”

Others say that “Holy Toledo” was a sarcastic expression resulting from the high proportion of bars to churches. Prior to World War I, it was a standing joke that you could walk out of a church on one corner and enter a bar on the next.

Another version claims the exclamation of surprise refers to Toledo, Spain, which became one of the great centers of Christian culture after its liberation from the Moors in 1085. Its 13th-century Gothic cathedral, one of the largest in Europe, is the seat of the Cardinal Archbishop of Spain.

Whatever the origins of the phrase, Toledo retains some of the fi nest examples of church architecture in the nation. There are literally dozens of churches built in Lake Erie West with old-world quality and materials. Inside and out, they are irreplaceable architectural treasures in Gothic, Renaissance, Spanish Mission and other styles. The churches of Toledo were a powerful magnet for some of the best artisans in the nation; they provided the churches with fantastic and lasting works in stone, ceramic, brick and glass.

Herein is but a small example of Toledo’s religious treasures.

In the second decade of the 20th Century, a new Toledo suburb was growing up around Walbridge Park. In 1909, a small but dedicated group formed the Walbridge Park Sunday School at the suggestion of Dr. Ernest Bournor Allen, Pastor of Washington Congregational Church. The newly formed Sunday school was loaned an organ, space was donated, and a local garage was offered as the meeting place.

In 1910, the Sunday School affi liated with the Washington Congregational Church. In Dr. Allen’s words, “There is opportunity there to secure, before long, a self-supporting church. Years ago we were helped on our feet by the First Church. We can pass on that help today.”

Soon after the school affi liated with Washington Congregational Church, a group called “The Working Band” formed to begin raising funds for that self- supporting church. By 1913, a group of 30 members was ready to form the Park Congregational Church.

On October 18, 1914, the new home of Park Congregational Church was dedicated at the corner of Princeton and City Boulevard (now Harvard Blvd.). By November 1950, members approved a plan to conduct a fund-raising campaign to retire present debt and erect an addition to the church. That addition contains 11 classrooms, a youth center, a parlor, chapel and an auditorium with a stage.

The Park Church is an understated Greek Revival brick building in the Puritan tradition. Instead of a bell tower, or even a cross at the top of the building, the church roof is capped with a cupola. There is no stained glass, statues or other features that might be considered ostentatious.

In Congregational tradition, the place where church services are held is called the Sanctuary. The Park Church sanctuary is a study in clean, understated beauty. Red carpeted fl oors contrast with white walls and white painted paneling. A dark railing with white spindles separates the sanctuary from the chancel and a similar spindle effect screens the church organ pipes at the back of the chancel. Other styling cues include vast swathes of broad, detailed crown molding and many detailed Greek Revival corbels, all painted white so as to add beauty without distraction.

 “We have a tightly-knit church,” said Linda Smith, Worship Ministry Leader. “We’re small, but we’re committed and we work hard. New members who visit usually stay because they feel welcomed and loved.”

On the southern edge of Toledo’s Old West End historic district and next door to the Toledo Museum of art, the cornerstone of Glenwood Lutheran Church was laid in 1963. Its architecture represents a blending of the old with the streamlined sensibilities of the era in which it was built. The low-slung, wide footprint and “modern” granite façade is punctuated by a soaring bell-tower/entrance with a Gothic-style doorway and a modernist crown.

On entering the sanctuary, the eye is fi rst drawn to the chancel, crowned by a Gothic arch and backed by a Gothic-style stained glass altar window. The back and top of the arch are decorated with paint and gold leaf symbols of faith. The altar window is known as the “Great ‘I Am’ Window.” The center panel portrays the Good Shepherd, the left panel represents the hand of God, and the right panel shows the descending dove.

The lower third of the arch is wrapped in intricately carved walnut paneling and flanked by ranks of gleaming organ pipes connected to an organ on the right hand side. The Chancel furnishings, pews, nave paneling and ceiling are also of walnut, giving the sensation of being wrapped in warm wood tones.

As a counterpoint to all the wood are rows of bright, colorful stained glass windows on both sides of the nave represent the Gospel in stained glass. Each of the eight nave windows has a name and is dense with the symbolism of the church. Accompanying the light from the windows are eight large Gothic-style chandeliers hung from the ceiling.

“We are always looking for opportunities to be open to the community so it can help us to be better,” said Pastor Melissa Afdahl. “The building is available for different community groups and we have quite a number of outreach ministries.”

The Toledo Symphony will perform a holiday concert at Glenwood on Friday, December 5th at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are now on sale. Adults are $10. Children 12 and younger are free. Call the church offi ce at 419-255-0886 to order your tickets. 

The first Poles began arriving after the civil war in the 1870’s. By 1879, the fi rst Polish parish was established in the Lagrange Street district (known as “Lagrinka” by poles) under the patronage of St. Hedwig. The Polish Lagrinka district grew very rapidly into the beginning of the 20th century.

By 1907, Bishop Ignatius Hortsman of Cleveland felt the need to establish a second Polish parish in the Lagrange Street district as a division to St. Hedwig Parish. In March 1908, Bishop Hortsman approved the choice of St. Adalbert as the namesake and patron of the new parish.

In the summer of 1908, Fr. Wacowski bought property on Lagrange Street bordered by Oakland, Warsaw and Weber Streets. By October 1909, a church/school building was completed. The structure was dedicated on September 18, 1910. In 1909, the rectory was built and in 1915 the convent.

As the parish continued to rapidly grow (St. Adalbert Parish eventually became the largest parish in the Diocese) it was necessary that a new, separate church be built. The cornerstone to the present St. Adalbert church was laid on April 19, 1927. 

The church was built in the Spanish Mission style. “It was built at a cost of $125,000. At the time, this was the only church of its kind in Northwest Ohio,” said Father Rick Philiposki of St. Adalbert Church. The circular stained glass window above the front entrance.

 The exterior is constructed of Massachusetts seamed granite in varying hues and textures. A bell tower reaches to the sky and houses two bells that toll at noon and 6pm daily. The roof is covered with ceramic tiles in keeping with the Spanish theme. The entryway is of richly carved stone and the doors are fl anked by lamps in the form of bronze-colored angels holding flaming torches aloft.

Inside the church, the capitals of supporting columns take the shape of child-faced angels. “I don’t think anyone has ever bothered to count all the angels, but there are a lot of then,” said Father Philiposki. “There used to be more painted on the walls, but a previous pastor thought they were too busy and had them painted over.” 

Above, exposed heavy, wooden beams are festively painted, as are the insides of arches between the beams. Iconography seems to be everywhere, including a statue of St. Adalbert, himself, behind the altar.

In the mid-1800s, German Catholics in Perrysburg had no church of their own. Instead, they took inconvenient (and sometimes dangerous) ferry rides across the Maumee River to St. Joseph Church in Maumee. By 1861, the families on the Perrysburg side of the river had organized to purchase an empty church building on Elm Street for $2,000. Father Seraphim Bauer, a St. Joseph priest, helped the Perrysburg villagers to organize and gave the church its name in honor of his mother, who died when he was 11 years old. Like St. Rose of Lima, she was of Spanish descent.

In 1873, the renowned Garrett House (named for the Buffalo, New York builder) organ was purchased for $2,000 and renovated in 1976 at a cost of $16,000. This is a mechanical action organ, called a tracker organ—one of only a few in Northwest Ohio.

Just across Elm Street from the original church, the current St. Rose Church cornerstone was laid in 1889. Within the cornerstone were placed newspapers, a listing of public offi cials and church members, coins and church records. The exterior is made of Sandusky Bluestone. The steeply-pitched roof is covered with slate shingles. Inside the bell tower were placed three bells weighing 800, 1,400 and 2,800 pounds.

The interior of St. Rose is a study in gothic splendor. The ceiling seems to fl oat in space because of ceiling vaults that dive toward the fl oor but stop well short and are not supported by columns.

There is much intricate artisan  painting, and European stained glass windows abound. The windows were sponsored by donors for $110 each, and the names of the donors are worked into the stained glass motifs.

Many of the current parishioners can point to their family names in the windows of St. Rose Church. Oak pews and copious oak woodwork are stained in a warm, reddish tone. The large crucifi x inside the chancel is from the famous Deprato Studio in Pietrasanta, Italy.

St. Rose Church was extensively refurbished in 1998 and is today a pristine example of turn-of- the-century Gothic Architecture.

 


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