National Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic Church
Location Name: National Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic Church (Royal Oak, Michigan)
Location Type: Church (Catholic)
Year Completed: 1936
Architect(s): Henry J. McGill
The National Shrine of the Little Flower began in 1925 when Bishop Michael J. Gallagher traveled to Rome to witness the canonization of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Gallegher was determined to establish the first American parish in her honor, and a church was built on the current site in Royal Oak for that purpose. The new church was led by the controversial Father Charles Coughlin, who took the unprecedented step of renting airtime on Detroit radio station WJR in 1926 to broadcast his sermons and raise funds for the costs incurring in building the church.
Father Coughlin’s sermons aimed to clarify the principles of Christianity and answer questions concerning faith and morality. By 1932, Coughlin’s radio chain had grown to 27 stations and had had such a positive response that financial contributions began to pour in. The business of Coughlin’s broadcasts quickly required more office space and a larger church for those listeners who came to visit Coughlin’s church. Architect Henry J. McGill was chosen to build Coughlin’s new church, and work was completed in 1936.
Coughlin played a large role in McGill’s design for the new church. The non-traditional church building is notable for its centrally located altar. Coughlin wanted the altar in the center of the church to illustrate that Mass is at the center of the Catholic faith. The dramatic limestone Art Deco Charity Crucifixion Tower was completed in 1931, featuring a 28-foot figure of Christ on the Cross. It is said that Coughlin wanted to build a cross that could not be burned (in response to a Ku Klux Klan cross burning that took place in front of the church years earlier). The octagonal nave is built with granite and limestone and is adorned by many elaborate sculptures done by Corrado Parducci.
Little Flower was declared a National Shrine in 1998. One of only five National Shrines in the United States, Little Flower is a place of pilgrimage devoted to the life and teachings of Saint Therese of Lisieux.Sources