Architectural Overview

Since 1914, more than 8 million people have entered under the carved stone tympanum over the Michigan Avenue entrance to Fourth Presbyterian Church. (The congregation was founded in 1871 and occupied two earlier church buildings before moving to Michigan Avenue.)

Today more than 5,700 members call Fourth Church home, and more than 2,000 people worship here every Sunday. (There are four worship services, at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 a.m. and a 4:00 p.m. jazz service.)

Most of the interior and exterior of the church is “original,” looking just as it has looked for almost a century. The cornerstone was laid in 1912, and the building was dedicated in May 1914. Except for the Old Water Tower, Fourth Church is the oldest building on Michigan Avenue north of the Chicago River.

The architect of Fourth Church was Ralph Adams Cram, America’s leading Gothic revival architect, best known for his work on the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Fourth Church is not a “copy” of any one building but instead combines what Mr. Cram saw as the best of English Gothic and French Gothic styles.

Prominent Midwestern architect Howard Van Doren Shaw designed the parish buildings (the Tudor-style structures surrounding the courtyard), which were built at the same time as the church and dedicated in March 1914.

The Great East Window

View the first in a forthcoming series on the architecture of Fourth Church.