For the last two years, Bob Rigali Sr. and his five children have poured their collective heart and soul into renovating Holy Name Cathedral.
For more than a century, generations of the Rigali family have contributed to Chicago's Catholic landscape, restoring houses of worship with their signature marble statues, hand-painted murals, ornamental altars and storytelling stained glass.Their work on the latest restoration of Holy Name -- closed for renovations for six months last year, only to be shut again when fire badly damaged it in February -- was revealed to the public Friday.
It's the realization of a dream deferred five decades ago when Rigali's father was passed over for the renovations made to accommodate liturgical reforms prescribed by Vatican II. "We're here now," said Rigali, 77, recalling how crushed his father was when he learned Cardinal John Cody had hired a friend from Italy. "We're making up for it."
On Saturday evening, 2,000 worshipers attending the first mass at Holy Name since the February fire got a chance to see the craftsmanship of Daprato Rigali Studios.
New and restored gold-leaf accents created a glow beneath the cathedral's vaulted ceilings. Previously whitewashed columns had been glazed and gilded. By Friday, a hand-painted rendering of Cardinal Francis George's crest will adorn the back wall of the sanctuary. The Cardinal was unable to attend mass Saturday, but wrote a letter to parishioners, comparing the cathedral to a phoenix, saying it "been brought out of the ashes and into a new life."
Rev. Dan Mayall, pastor of Holy Name, who led mass instead, was greeted with loud applause when he told the congregation, "Welcome back to Holy Name Cathedral."
"There was a time I thought I'd never get to say that again," Mayall said. The cathedral "has never looked better."
Truth is, Chicago's cathedral has always been a work in progress. Built on a tiny budget after the 1871 Great Chicago Fire and opening in 1875, it did not have a lot of the flourishes found in many metropolitan cathedrals, said Denis McNamara, author of "Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago."
A renovation launched in 1883 added some artistic flair. Using white marble from Pietrosanta, Italy, where the Rigalis have a studio, the family designed a pulpit for the sanctuary and other accents.
But when the cathedral closed between Easter 1968 and Christmas 1969, much of what had been added was taken away. The pulpit, stained-glass windows and murals were discarded to create a sleeker, more modern look -- the trend of the time.
Duncan Stroik, director of the Institute for Sacred Architecture at the University of Notre Dame, said many pastors stripped down worship spaces on the basis that traditional iconography distracted worshipers from Christ.
The backlash against decor took a toll on the Rigalis' bottom line. What kept the business afloat was what Vatican II prescribed. Because priests now had to face the congregation during mass, altars had to be moved. Communion rails were removed.
Stroik said the pendulum has swung back toward ornate decorations and design.
Bob Rigali Jr., 51, a salesman for the company, credited parishioners.
"What's steering it back is people worshiping," said Rigali Jr., who like his father and some of his siblings, worships at St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Park Ridge, where Mayall served before moving to Holy Name. "We as Catholics need to see the beauty of the sacraments."
Marie Cox, 52, was one of hundreds of worshipers who arrived more than an hour early for Saturday's mass, waiting for an afternoon wedding to finish so that she could see the Rigalis' work.
"The bride better be pretty," she joked as she waited on the cathedral steps.
But by the time Brooke Hendricks -- pretty -- and her groom, Chris Tagliaferro -- handsome -- emerged, Cox and dozens of other parishioners had already squeezed in through a side door.
"It's good to be home," Cox said.
Inside the cathedral: Images from the renovations at chicagotribune.com/holynameCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times