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Friday, October 14, 2011

Notes from a Cemetery Tour

A few weeks ago, my daughter, Jessica, and I drove about 85 miles northeast of where I am staying, to Hillside, Illinois for the annual Cemetery Tour. The tour cost $40, and included breakfast, lunch, and a ride on a trolley touring famous grave sites in both Mt. Carmel and Queen of Heaven cemeteries, two of the most ornate and beautiful cemeteries in Illinois. I first wrote about these cemeteries here, here,  and here.

The tour started at 9:00 am, so it was an early start for Jessica, as she lives 25 miles west of the campground! She rolled in at around 7:00 am and we were on our way!

We were meeting my sister, Pam, and my Aunt Lee at Hillside City Hall, where the tour was originating. Pam and Aunt Lee were already there when we arrived, munching on donuts and bagels. Fruit, orange juice, coffee and water was also available.

This is the Hillside Village Hall Complex which originally was a minor seminary for prospective priests and brothers for the Order of the Servants of Mary. The seminary closed down in the late 1960's.The Village Hall took over the buildings in 2003.


vine-covered archways
inside view
Our tour guide, Mayor Joseph Tamburino


The tour begins!




One of our first stops was Bishop's Hill.

side view - you can see the bronze statue of the Angel of the Resurrection
Building completed in 1912, there are 30 steps leading up to a pair of carved  bronze doors. Above the entrance is engraved the word, "Resurrecturis", which means "to those who will rise again".
The mayor kidded us saying that the mausoleum was situated on the highest point in the cemetery to separate the Italians from the Irish so there wouldn't be any fighting! The cemetery is filled with predominately Italian graves, but there are other people from various ethnic groups.

Inside the Bishop's mausoleum are buried 7 of the past bishops, archbishops, and cardinals from the city of Chicago. One of the privileges of the tour was seeing inside the mausoleum, for I don't think it is open to the public very often.

It was surprisingly small once we were inside; maybe it was because there were about 16 of us standing in there. The Holy Fathers are buried on either side and the altar runs along the back wall.


Above the altar is a beautiful mosaic that was designed in Italy, pasted on paper, and then shipped to the United States.  Four Italian workers were then hired to reconstruct a panorama going outward from The Risen Christ that depicts the dead rising from their tombs.


High above the altar is a scene from the Last Supper depicting Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.


This is on the dome of the mausoleum.



This is the crypt of Cardinal Bernadin, the most recent cardinal to be buried here.


Did you know that we got the term "mausoleum" from the Greek? When her husband, King Mausolus of Caria died, the queen had a huge tomb built  in honor of him (between 353 and 350 BC). The Tomb of Mausolus was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The word mausoleum has now come to be used generically for any grand tomb. (Wikipedia)

This is a photo of a model of The Tomb of Mausolus, built to scale. The tomb stand 148 feet tall and is located in Instanbul.


Unfortunately, the original tomb was destroyed; probably by an earthquake. Here is a photo of the site today. Both the photo above and below are from Wikipedia.


Mausoleums were very popular in Europe, and immigrants were the first to erect them in both Mt. Carmel and Queen of Heaven cemeteries. There are over 400 mausoleums in Mt. Carmel alone, most built years ago. The cost of building one today? Close to a million dollars!

photo credit: kkathy - Panoramio
One of the more beautiful mausoleums - modeled after a Gothic church in Italy. The recipient, John Lavezzorio, was a poor immigrant who made his fortune in produce and real estate. But, as the saying goes, "money can't buy you happiness". He suffered from depression and committed suicide in 1928.


Tomb of famous mobster Sam Giancana, killed while making Italian sausage in the kitchen, 1975. Mr. Giancana was facing a federal prison term, and it seemed that his "associates" didn't want him to talk.....so they shut him up for good.


Here is Angelo "Bloody Angelo" Genna's tomb. He was the head of the Sicilian mob and was killed by Vincent Drucci, Earl Weiss and Bugs Moran of Chicago's West Side Gang.


The Queen of Heaven cemetery has the world's largest Catholic mausoleum. Construction began in 1956 and took 20 years to complete. The mausoleum holds 30,000 crypts, has over 100 stained glass windows, several small chapels and sculptures. It was like walking in a museum. We could have spent the whole day walking through this magnificent place.

The 10-foot tall Archangel Gabriel stands above the entrance of the mausoleum. The statue weighs 10,000 pounds and took 10 weeks to carve.
Stained glass window from one of the chapels
Typical small room off of the main hallway - look closely and you will see the names of the people on the wall who are buried in the crypt there. There are crypts on both sides.
One of the many sculptures on display.
Queen of Heaven also has an outdoor garden crypt, which holds 20,200 crypts. I could not believe the magnitude of this place. Unfortunately we couldn't get off the bus for a photo, but I did get a photo of this beautiful 21-foot-tall  sculpture, Christ the King.


What does a moving tombstone, a haunting Italian bride and other interesting facts have to do with each other? They are all in my next post! Stay tuned!

11 comments:

Country Gal said...

Wonderful post and photos.Thanks for taking us along interesting for sure. Its amazing how huge some of them are. Have a good day !

Carletta said...

A fascinating post Pat!
Love all the pics from inside. I never would have imagined anything so elaborate.
A wonderful series of photos!

EG Wow said...

Quite the tour, I must say!

David Allen Waters said...

a wonderful post. churches and old cemetarys are so peaceful and beautiful to me....

Eva Gallant said...

The photos are amazing. I especially like the ones inside the mausoleum, and the stained glass windows. Once again, thank you for the tour!

Brian Miller said...

oh wow thanks for taking us along...love the stain glass and the mausoleums...

SquirrelQueen said...

What an amazing tour Pat. That mosaic took a lot of work but it is beautiful. I love all of the stained glass.

You've really got me curious about your next post.

Valerie said...

One of your best posts, Pat. Enjoyable and educational. It's so interesting I've made notes to tell himself.

Jeannelle said...

Excellent post, Pat! What an interesting place! Thank you for taking your blog readers on this tour.

Betty Manousos@ Cut and Dry said...

a wonderful tour! thank you for taking me along.

i like the photos, they are all exceptional!
great post!

DesertHen said...

Wonderful tour so far! Beautiful photos! Now I'm off to read part 2.