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MostHolyRedeemer,RomanCatholic 1721 Junction Avenue dedicated April 1, 1923 architect Donaldson and Meier T he Redemptorist Order, under the leadership of Father Aegidius Smulders, founded Most Holy Redeemer Church and Parish in 1880. The parish was under their care for almost 120 years until 1999, when they ceded stewardship to the Archdiocese of Detroit. The predominantly Irish parishioners lived in what was then known as Springwells Township. As a site for the permanent church, the congregation purchased four acres of land at the corner of Dix and Lover’s Lane, now Vernor and Junction. Because the land was found to be too unstable to build upon, volunteers helped remove the sandy topsoil and assist with the construction. The result was a wood frame structure known as the Little Church on Sand Hill, dedicated in 1881. Fifteen years later this church was too small for the increasing membership and a second, larger church was begun in 1896. Twenty- five years later an even larger church was needed. Donaldson and Meier designed the third and present incarnation of Most Holy Redeemer. By Detroit standards the present church is immense, seating 1,400 worshippers. For the design, the architects adopted a Roman basilicatype plan with its characteristic long rectangular space, transepts, and high nave with clerestory housed under a cross-gabled roof. The exterior, especially the main facade, borrows elements from the Romanesque style. The large, round arch of the central entrance frames a mosaic that rests on a carved lintel, which stretches across the facade. At the clerestory level, a triple arcade of round-arched windows is surmounted by multiple blind arches that rise to the peak of the gable. Flanking the main facade, but set slightly back from it, are two lower side entrances. The concrete and steel frame of the structure is sheathed in brick facing and offset by crisp trim in Bedford limestone. The roof is Spanish tile in mottled red shades. Standing separately but adjacent to the church is a massive bell tower that was completed in 1926 as a memorial to members of the parish who lost their lives in World War I. On the ground floor is a small but exquisitely decorated chapel. Its walls and barrel vault are embellished with gold mosaic. A richly decorated marble altar and baptismal font are placed in the center of the space. Nothing on the exterior prepares the visitor for the lavish materials rich in color, texture, and superb quality within the church. Although the roof structure is gabled, the interior space is a vast, flat ceiling with intricately painted, fine detailing . The flat but deeply coffered ceiling over the nave and transepts leads to the primary focus of the sanctuary, the magnificent high altar. Fashioned in Italy of numerous marbles, the altar is adorned with discreet insets of sparkling glass mosaics. Above, a semicircular apse is covered with a halfdome mosaic of the Last Supper that is so finely detailed it appears to be painted. Over eight thousand square feet of art tiles, designed and fired in the kilns of Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery, cover the floors of the sanctuary, aisles, narthex, and side chapels. The stained glass windows of the aisles, apse, and narthex, installed at the time the church was constructed, are ablaze with brilliant blue and red tones. Formerly attributed to the Connick Studio of Boston, the artist has recently been identified as A. Kay Herbert, a native of Scotland. The clerestory windows, which are a very different , simpler geometric design in predominantly blue, green, and purple, are the work of Detroit Stained Glass Works. In 1931 attention turned to completing the decoration of the church. The congregation developed a scheme for paintings to be done in the half-dome of the apse, on 28 opposite: Side altar p a r t i v . 1 9 2 0 – 1 9 5 0 166 Exterior with 1926 bell tower built as a memorial to parish members killed in World War I 169 the arch preceding it, and across the entire length of the frieze, just below the clerestory. Thomas di Lorenzo, a well-known Detroit artist , was selected for the task. In the frieze paintings, di Lorenzo depicted scenes from the life of Christ on canvas and affixed them to the wall. For forty years all of the paintings remained intact. In 1973 when the church decided to redecorate, Italian American Angelo Lanzini was commissioned to be the chief artist. He painted over...


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