St. Charles Borromeo: Hampshire, IL

The design for the new 1000-seat church for St. Charles Borromeo Parish builds on themes from the existing 1908 gothic revival style church built by the original Irish and German settlers of this farming town 40 miles west of Chicago. It also looks to the patron Saint of the Parish for direction. St. Charles Borromeo served as Archbishop of Milan in the 1560’s and worked to counteract the ill effects of the reformation on the church. One of his primary legacies was Borromeo’s Instructions for the design and construction of churches, a manual that guided designers of Catholic churches up to Vatican II. In the last few years Borromeo’s Instructions have enjoyed renewed interest as parishes have sought out guidelines for traditional sanctuary spaces.

Other influences on the design of St. Charles Borromeo Church were a desire on the part of the parishioners for a traditional worship space that ‘feels like a church’. Recent auditorium style churches in the area have galvanized a groundswell of discontent with boxy, unimaginative and non-liturgical designs. The new church relies on familiar forms such as the hierarchically organized Latin cross shaped plan with a prominent altar platform at the Eastern end. All the traditional pew seating, even in the transepts, faces east to greet the rising sun symbolic of the resurrection. Other features will be a vaulted ceiling of similar design to that of the current church, and a baptistery that takes the form of an apsidal end to the North transept.