St. Mark Church
St. Mark Church is a former Roman Catholic church in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was dedicated to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. During its first 50 years of operation, St. Mark’s had 24 priestly vocations, which included one bishop, two religious brothers, and 36 religious sisters.
In 1904, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood expressed interest in establishing a parish in Evanston, a new middle-class suburb of Cincinnati where there were over 100 Catholic families, many of Polish and German descent. 1 2 Permission was granted to establish the St. Mark parish in 1905. 9
The first services were held at the residence of Mary Klinckhamer. 9 A temporary frame building was soon erected on land that Mary donated, with a cornerstone for the combination church and school laid on April 29, 1906. The new building was dedicated on October 28. 7
A convent was added in 1909 for the Sisters of the Precious Blood who operated the school. 9 The school and church were both at capacity by 1911.
Architect Henry J. Schlacks was sought after to design a larger church for St. Mark. 8 It was requested that the new building be inspired by St. Marie in Trastevere and St. Marie in Cosmedio, Italy. Schlacks was the founder of the Architecture School at Notre Dame University and was the architect of Xavier University’s original campus buildings and other notable Cincinnati landmarks. 7 Joseph G. Steinkamp & Brothers served as the associate architect. 8
The cornerstone for the new church was laid in 1914. 2 The new building opened in 1916 at the cost of $150,000. The exterior boasted mild brown brick with terracotta components, colored to match Roman Travertine stone, with a Verona facade and imported orange Roman tiles. The new complex also included a 130-foot campanile.
The interior included three consecrated altars built from Botticino marble. 2 9 The high altar contained images of the twelve apostles, surmounted by a baldachino comprised of Breccia marble. 2 9 The side altars featured Lady as Queen of Angels and Mother Hen, and St. Joseph as Scion of the House of David and Patron of the Universal Church. A mural in the sanctuary, which depicted the Lamb of God, was painted by Leo Mirabile. Several statues included Sacred Heart, St. Anne, St. Mark and St. Rose, all constructed of Carrara marble. Zettler of Munich, Germany crafted the stained glass windows.
St. Mark’s sanctuary had a capacity of 850 persons, with a choir gallery and two votive chapels holding 150 persons total. 8
The school burned in 1922 but was replaced in 1923. 9
A large pipe organ, built by Kilgen, was installed in 1933. 2 A bowling alley and youth club were added to the church in the 1940’s.
A Mission House for the Previous Blood Fathers, designed by A.M. Strauss of Fort Wayne, Indiana, was built in 1950. 10 The house replaced the original frame church, and contained residences for the pastor and assistant pastors, the mission band, religious instruction for St. Mark’s Cathedral information center and meeting rooms for parish societies.
At St. Mark’s height in the mid-1950’s, over 1,200 families worshipped regularly. 2
The neighborhood was in decline by the 1970’s as suburbs developed further out in the county. 2 5 The construction of Interstate 71 in 1972, which passed adjacent to the church, led to hundreds of homes being razed, starving St. Mark of its congregation. 2 5
By the late 20th century, St. Mark had just a small congregation of mostly African-American Catholics. 2 Owing to the high cost of maintaining an aging facility and a shortage of priests, the parish began planning for a merger in 1991 when the Cincinnati archdiocese headed the Future Projects strategic plan. 5 Of the four parishes the archdiocese controlled, the combined membership was just over 500 worshippers spread over 11 buildings.
The archdiocese declared that the four parishes could not exist upon their own in 2008. 5 After much discussion and debate, it was decided that St. Mark would merge into St. Agnes. St. Agnes had the newest building and had a seating capacity of 350 persons.
With 95 students, the St. Mark Catholic school closed in May 2002. 1 9 Students were urged to attend Corryville Catholic School which had planned to relocate to St. Mark’s school building. Instead, Cooryville Catholic decided to remain in their building in June 2004.
The shuttered school building was leased to National Heritage Academies, a charter school, in June 2004. It reopened in August to 350 kindergarten through fifth-grade students. Due to the more substantial student body, the bowling alley was removed, and the space renovated into seven classrooms.
A decree by Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr formed the Church of the Resurrection on July 14, 2010. 2 It combined St. Agnes in Bond Hill, St. Martin de Porres in Lincoln Heights, and St. Andrew in Avondale into the St. Agnes building. The newly combined congregation contained 550 worshipers.
On July 25, St. Mark held its last service to a predominately African-American parish. 1 The first Mass at the Church of the Resurrection was held at 10 a.m. on August 1.
The practice of Latin Mass, which is based upon the traditional Latin liturgy, has been practiced in Cincinnati since 1988 under the endorsement of the Archdiocese. 3 The first Masses were held at St. Monica’s Church in Clifton before relocating to the Sacred Heart Church in Camp Washington. From that, Archbishop Pilarczyk formed a Chaplaincy to encompass the Sacred Heart Church and the Holy Rosary Church in Dayton in an effort to provide greater provisions for those who were worshiping the traditional liturgy.
Since the Chaplaincy was formed, a parish was created for Dayton at Holy Family and properties were scouted for a Cincinnati parish. 3 It was not until St. Mark became available that serious thought was put forth towards the purchase of the property.
If the proposal received the support and blessing of the Archbishop, St. Mark would become home to a new parish with a focus on Latin Mass. A detailed proposal for the acquisition and restoration of St. Mark, estimated to cost $2 million, was formed. 3 David Kuhlman, of Jaeger Nickola and Associates of Chicago, was retained as an adviser during the restoration process. A Property Conditions Assessment and Church Restoration Master Plan were prepared. The assessment and plan were based upon a thorough inspection encompassing the roof, masonry, paint, electrical, mechanical and details regarding the fine art and stained glass.