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 and the first services were held at the residence of Mary Klinckhamer. 9 On land that Mary donated, a cornerstone for the combination church and school was laid on April 29, 1906, and the new wood-framed structure was dedicated on October 28. 7 A convent was added in 1909 for the Sisters of the Precious Blood who operated the school. 9
By 1911, both the school and church were at capacity, and architect Henry J. Schlacks was hired to design a larger church building with a capacity for 850 persons. 8 Schlacks was the founder of the Architecture School at Notre Dame University and the architect of Xavier University’s original campus buildings and other notable Cincinnati landmarks. 7 Joseph G. Steinkamp & Brothers served as the associate architectural firm. 8
It was requested that the new structure be patterned after St. Marie in Trastevere and St. Marie in Cosmedio, Italy. 8 The cornerstone for the new building was laid in 1914 and was completed in 1916 at the cost of $150,000. 2 It featured a mild brown brick and terracotta exterior, colored to match Roman Travertine stone, a Verona facade, a roof adorned with imported orange Roman tiles, and a 130-foot-tall campanile. The interior included a choir gallery, and two votive chapels, 8 and a barrel-vaulted sanctuary with three consecrated altars built from Botticino marble. 2 9 The high altar contained images of the twelve apostles, surmounted by a baldacchino 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.
The school burned in 1922 and immediately replaced in the following year. 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 1940s. A Mission House for the Precious Blood Fathers, designed by A.M. Strauss of Fort Wayne, Indiana, was built in 1950 and replaced the original frame church building. 10 It contained residences for the pastor and assistant pastors and space for the mission band and meeting rooms for parish societies.
Over 1,200 families worshipped regularly during St. Mark’s height in the mid-1950s. 2 The neighborhood began to decline shortly thereafter because of suburban developments that began to siphon residents from Cincinnati. 2 5 Additionally, the construction of Interstate 71 adjacent to the church in 1972 destroyed hundreds of homes and forcing the relocation of over a thousand, starving the church of its congregation. By the late 20th century, St. Mark’s 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 preparing for a merger in 1991 as part of the Future Projects strategic plan by the Cincinnati archdiocese. 5 Between four parishes, the combined membership was just over 500 worshippers spread between 11 buildings.
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, Corryville Catholic decided to remain in their building in June 2004 and the St. Mark school building was leased to National Heritage Academies, a charter school. Due to the more substantial student body, the bowling alley was removed and the space renovated into seven classrooms.
Declaring that four of the parishes could not continue to operate independently in 2008, it was decided to merge the four into one with a combined congregation of 550 worshipers. 5 A decree by Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr formed the Church of the Resurrection on July 14, 2010, which combined St. Agnes in Bond Hill, St. Martin de Porres in Lincoln Heights, and St. Andrew in Avondale into the St. Agnes building as it had a newer structure with a seating capacity of 350 persons. 2 5
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. detailed proposal for the acquisition and restoration of St. Mark, estimated to cost $2 million, was developed. 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. Ultimately, the idea did not receive the support of the Archbishop.
Another idea, from the Evanston Community Council, is to renovate the former sanctuary into a community center.
[su_spoiler title=”Sources” icon=”caret”]
- Bradley, Eric. “Last services held at three Catholic Churches.” Cincinnati Enquirer 25 July 2010. 13 May 2011 Article.
- Paver, Ashley. “History of St. Mark’s Church.” The Campaign to Restore St. Mark’s Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2011. Article.
- Paver, Ashley. “Our Vision for St. Mark’s.” The Campaign to Restore St. Mark’s Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2011. Article.
- Paver, Ashley. “Project Overview.” The Campaign to Restore St. Mark’s Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 May 2011. Article.
- Yount, Dan. “Merger of four Black parishes being finalized.” Cincinnati Herald 3 April 2010. 15 May 2011 Article.
- “Church of the Resurrection Newly merged congregation celebrates first Mass Aug. 1.” Cincinnati Herald 31 July 2010. 15 May 2011 Article.
- Fortin, Roger Antonio. “Relations with Regular Clergy.” Faith and action: a history of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 1821-1996. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2002. 188-190. Print.
- Federal Writers’ Project. “Tour 15: Victory Parkway – Evanston – Oakley – Madisonville.” Cincinnati: A Guide to the Queen City and Its Neighbors. Wiesen-Hart Press: Cincinnati, 1943. 317. Print.
- “History of St. Mark Catholic Church.” Celebrating National Black Catholic History Month. Cincinnati: Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 2009. 118-119. Print.
- “St. Mark Catholic Church, Precious Blood Fathers Building Mission House.” Catholic Telegraph 25 Mar. 1949. 16 Oct. 2013. Article.