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Shrine of the Little Flower

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1929–1931 tower and 1933–1936 church, Henry J. McGill. Woodward Ave. at W. Twelve Mile Rd.
  • (Photograph by Balthazar Korab)

The Shrine of the Little Flower is an extravagant Art Deco tower and church built with contributions from radio listeners in much the same manner as Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, and other televangelists have built their empires in more recent times. In 1926, Bishop Gallagher commissioned the Reverend Charles E. Coughlin (1891–1979) to establish a parish in Royal Oak, and a tiny shingle church dedicated to St. Theresa of Lisieux was built for twenty-eight families. Coughlin soon purchased radio broadcast time and produced the Radio Shrine of the Little Flower, later the National Radio League of the Shrine of the Little Flower. With donations from a national audience of listeners of his political broadcasts, in which he advocated social reform and opposed international bankers, communists, labor unions, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, Father Coughlin accumulated enough money to pay for the construction of this church and tower.

McGill of New York City designed the complex to fit on an unusual wedge-shaped lot. The church is octagonal, with a central altar. Exterior walls are of rough-cut granite from Weymouth, Massachusetts, trimmed with smooth-cut Indiana limestone. Wings containing chapels project from the north and the south, and galleries encircle the entire sanctuary, so that it seats 3,000 beneath its tentlike, copper- and nickel-steel-clad dome. The interior is lavishly finished in buff sandstone, travertine, imported marbles, white oak woodwork, and bronze, and is embellished with carvings and paintings. Corrado Joseph Parducci created much of the bronze and stone sculpture, Beatrice Wilczynski of Chicago did the paintings, and Rene P. Chamberllan carved many of the stone reliefs.

The square limestone Charity Crucifixion Tower is covered with carvings and relief sculpture depicting church figures and symbolism and has a monumental relief of the crucified Christ on the Cross. Behind Christ's head, near the top of the tower and reached by a spiral staircase, is the room from which Coughlin broadcast his radio programs.

Writing Credits

Kathryn Bishop Eckert

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