7 Most Beautiful and Awe-Inspiring Churches and Cathedrals in Illinois

Holy Name Cathedral in Downtown Chicago, United States
© Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock.com

Written by Alanna Davis

Published: September 26, 2023

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Illinois has a deep and rich history with Christianity that dates back to the early 1600s. People like Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were some of the first explorers to traverse the land that later became known as Illinois. When they began to settle this land, they interacted with the Native Americans and introduced them to Christianity. Currently, this is the most popular religion in the state, with 71% of occupants following it. Let’s explore the seven most breathtaking churches and cathedrals that Illinois has to offer. 

1. St. John Cantius Church, Chicago

The interior of St. John Cantius is designed in the Baroque style.

©Extraordinary Faith / CC BY-SA 2.0 – Original / License

An influx of Polish immigrants arrived in the Chicago area in the late 19th century. As such, St. John Cantius Church was constructed to accommodate them. Adolphus During, the architect responsible for designing this beautiful church, was one of the most prolific ecclesiastical architects of the 1800s. Throughout his career, he received credit for designing roughly 100 Roman Catholic churches throughout the Midwest, many of which still stand today. 

St. John Cantius Church is one of his proudest works. In the present day, this church has vowed to preserve Catholic history and Polish heritage both physically and liturgically. Due to this, this church is an excellent choice for those seeking a more traditional experience. The public voted this church the “Most Beautiful Church in America” in an online competition held in 2016. 

2. SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish, Lemont

Monument to Saint Kirill and Mefodi in Kolomna town, Russia. Cyril and Methodius are Saints of the Orthodox and Catholic Church, creators of the Old Slavic alphabet and Church Slavic language.

Cyril and Methodius were missionary brothers known as the “Apostles to the Slavs”.

©olgalngs/Shutterstock.com

First constructed in 1884, SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish was another church created out of a need for additional religious accommodations for the growing Polish community in Chicago. Throughout the next century, it continued to undergo countless revisions and additions to achieve this goal. In 1983, the church we see today was finally completed. Since then, the members of this church have dedicated themselves to serving their community. Their mission statement reads, “Enlivened by the Spirit, we share our gifts, talents, and resources to bring about the Kingdom of God.”

Moreover, they are steadfast in accomplishing their mission. This church performs a large variety of outreach in the local community. Several organizations work in conjunction with SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish, including Habitat for Humanity and Bereavement. Through working with these organizations, they seek to aid a wide range of individuals in need. This beautiful church celebrated its 135th anniversary in 2019.

3. Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, Chicago

The Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral operates Saturday through Wednesday.

©Paul R. Burley / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

Every inch of this breathtaking cathedral is covered with artwork. While some individuals may feel the intense amount of ornamentation is excessive, most visitors consider this church a masterpiece. Guests report feelings of awe stepping through the entrance of this church, with some calling it “a jewel of a building.” A very fitting description of this marvelous feat of architecture. 

This church is the oldest Orthodox cathedral in all of Chicago. Built in 1892, the architect responsible for designing the building, Louis Henry Sullivan, studied countless examples of traditional Russian churches in preparation for building the Holy Trinity Cathedral. As a result, his hard work paid off, and this church is hailed as one of Illinois’ most iconic landmarks. 

4. St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, Chicago

Designed in the Renaissance Revival style by Brooklyn designer Patrick Keely, this church is packed with art and history. The intricately painted ceilings, stained glass windows, and grand altar all coalesce into one of Chicago’s most intricate pieces of architecture. Impressively, the exterior of the building displays an equally breathtaking attention to detail.  

Unique among its contemporaries, St. Stanislaus Kostka Church is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This church is ideal for tourists on a tight schedule who still want to immerse themselves in the religious history of the city. If you’re planning to vacation in the Chicago area, this church is an absolute must-see. Luckily, you can squeeze into your schedule at any time of day or night.

5. Ascension and St. Edmund Parish, Oak Park

This church may look grand and imposing, but the truth is, that it comes from very humble beginnings. Founded in 1907, the congregation of Ascension and St. Edmund Parish began as a small meeting in a clubhouse. Officials held mass there for nearly five years before purchasing land to construct a proper church and schoolhouse. As time progressed, the population grew and additional construction was needed to accommodate the increasing parishioners and school children. After many renovations, they finally completed the church we see before us today, equipped with more than enough space and resources to accommodate the local community. 

Today, Ascension and St. Edmund Parish serves its local community proudly, welcoming those from all walks of life. They encourage individuals who are just starting out on their spiritual journey to attend the wealth of religious education services they offer. Religious education classes are available for both children and adults.

6. St. Hyacinth Basilica, Chicago

The St. Hyacinth Basilica offers mass in both English and Polish.

©Frank Malawski / CC BY 2.0 – Original / License

Founded by the Resurrectionist Fathers in 1894, St. Hyacinth Basilica has been a pillar in Chicago for over a century. This basilica was named after Saint Hyacinth of Poland, a prominent historical figure admired for his extensive missionary work. William Brinkmann designed the exterior of The St. Hyacinth Basilica in the iconic Gothic Revival style. The interior is a near textbook example of the Polish Cathedral style, featuring heavy ornamentation and wall-to-wall artwork. Due to his incredible attention to detail, some visitors describe the interior of the church as “opulent,” and “jaw-dropping.” 

As the main church of the Polish-American community in Chicago, it has incredible historic and local significance. In fact, the title of “basilica” is only given to churches that display great artistic or architectural significance, high historical value, and large liturgical popularity. This church is a piece of Christian history and would be a great addition to anyone’s itinerary when visiting Illinois. 

7. Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago 

Holy Name Cathedral in Downtown Chicago, United States

The Holy Name Cathedral is one of Chicago’s most iconic landmarks.

©Leonid Andronov/Shutterstock.com

The Cathedral of Saint Mary and The Church of the Holy Name were destroyed in the great Chicago fire of 1871, and church members were left with nowhere to go. To remedy this, officials constructed the Holy Name Cathedral as a replacement. Famous church architect Patrick Keely designed it in the iconic Gothic Revival style. Currently, it is the seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago which serves more than two million Catholics local to the area. As such, they perform a wide variety of outreach and volunteer work. Some of their ministries are providing school supplies, warm meals, and knitted clothing to the less fortunate in the community.

Holy Name Cathedral is one of the most famous cathedrals throughout all of Chicago. They offer mass every day of the week, making this a great choice for busy locals as well as tourists. In addition to in-person mass, they offer online mass as well which is live-streamed at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Final Thoughts

There is no question that Illinois is home to a wealth of beautiful and historic churches. Whether you’re interested in architecture, Christian history, or beautiful religious artwork, Illinois has a church for everyone. If you’re planning on vacationing in the area in the future, any of these buildings would make a wonderful addition to your itinerary. Even if you’re strapped for free time, try attending a church that stays open 24/7 or tuning into an online mass.

Religions followed in IllinoisPercentage of population
Protestantism43%
Roman Catholicism28%
Agnosticism21%
Judaism2%
Islam1%
Other5%


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About the Author

Alanna is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering insects, animals, and travel. In addition to writing, she spends her time tutoring English and exploring the east end of Long Island. Prior to receiving her Bachelor's in Economics from Stony Brook University, Alanna spent much of her time studying entomology and insect biology.

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