Church Madness: Ecclesiastical 8

The atmosphere is electric ecclesiastical here in St. Peter’s Arena as we’re down to the final eight churches!

Church Madness 2016

IntroductionMidwest Bracket (March 17)East Bracket (March 18)South Bracket (March 19)West Bracket (March 20) · Sacred 64 Results (March 28) · Theological 32 (March 29) · Stunning 16 (April 4)Ecclesiastical 8 (April 8) • Ferial 4 (April 11) · National Churchpionship (April 14) • “One Shining Moment” (April 17)

There were over 5,000 votes cast in the last round alone! Thank you to all our participants and commenters.

Amid all the excitement, I published a short post you might like about why we Catholics are so fussy about liturgical colors. I also have a couple more posts in the works, including an “Art History for Normal People” feature on ancient Rome and an international edition of the Spotlight series. If any of that sounds interesting to you, then I hope you’ll stick around.

Back to Church Madness: On the the suggestion of my friend Rob, the final four churches will get an auto-bid into next year’s tournament. Thanks, Rob.

Who will earn these automatic entries? You can decide now: the latest bracket and polls are open below. Voting will remain open through Sunday evening, April 10, and the winners will be announced on Monday morning, April 11. Vote early, vote often (that’s for you Chicagoans) and may the best church* win!

* They’re all great

— Voting is now closed. Results and the next round will be posted tomorrow morning, April 11. —


St. John Cantius (Chicago, Ill.) — 360° panorama  ⚠︎ NOTE: Sound autoplays! But it’s Allegri’s Miserere mei, which is nice ⚠︎

Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (Mo.) — 360° panorama via Google Maps


Cathedral of St. Patrick (New York City) — 360° panorama via Google Maps

National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – Upper church (D.C.) — virtual tour on Shrine website


Cathedral of St. John the Baptist (Savannah, Ga.) — photo gallery

Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery (Hanceville, Ala.) — photo gallery


Mission Basilica of San Juan Capistrano (Cal.) — search results on Flickr

Cathedral of the Madeleine (Salt Lake City, Ut.) — 360° panorama

— Voting is now closed. Results and the next round will be posted tomorrow morning, April 11. —


  1. SLC Cathedral of the Madeline was built at a time when the LDS temple was only other large structure in the area. It has the most amazing architecture. Built from the same granite as the LDS temple. The colors remain vibrant with amazing even after 106 years. The stained glass windows are old style. A very historic building.

  2. There is a very beautiful church in the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts: St. Anthony of Padua in New Bedford, Masschusetts. In art and architecture in Rivals the other churches listed and while the liturgy is reverent and beautiful, it doesn’t really compare to St. John Cantius in Chicago, especially in music. While it is not my home parish, I do recommend it to anyone visiting the South Coast of Massachusetts.

      • Patrick, I wanted to add one more thing about St. Anthony of Padua in New Bedford, MA. (thanks for posting the picture). There are hundreds of electric lights embedded in the architecture of this church that, when lit, present a sanctuary that is nothing short of spectacular. When the church was electrified nearly 100 years ago, it is said that when all these lights were lit, it would “brown-out” the whole north end of the city.

  3. I just came across your blog via another blog (Fr. Z’s). I am thoroughly enjoying looking through your archives – this is beautiful!

    Next year for Church Madness, you may want to include my parish church, St. Bernard in Akron, OH. It was built in 1905, although the parish was established in 1861. St. Bernard was originally meant to be a cathedral. In the early 1900s, Akron was inundated with immigrants and the population grew dramatically. At that point, some thought was given to creating a new diocese in Akron. This did not happen, but we do have our lovely St. Bernard Church as a result.

    St. Bernard Church is of Romanesque architecture with soaring twin spires. I believe it is modeled on a German monastery church. The congregation at the time of construction was Bavarian and Alsatian, and the King of Bavaria sent $500 dollars toward its construction. The architect was the renowned William Ginther. On completion it was consecrated and was fully paid in full, which is quite unusual.

    It is stunning. The walls are covered in murals of the saints. The soaring stained glass windows are enormous and bright and fill the church with light. And the ceiling almost reminds me of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Without fail, everyone who enters the church for the first time slowly takes everything in, and finally lifts their eyes to the ceiling, with its angels and swirling stars. The main altar is fully 3 stories high – 2 stories in the church, and another story below going to the ground. The main altar, the side altars, and alcove altars are of white marble accented with dark green marble, and a beautiful mosaic of marble and gold around the tabernacle. There are also two balconies, the first handling overflow seating, and the second housing the antique pipe organ.

    Sorry to go on so, but I love my parish and our church, and I think you and your readers would enjoy it also! God bless you and Happy Easter!

    • Hey, thanks for this incredible comment! I had a chance to look at some photos online and you’re totally right — it is gorgeous! I am a sucker for really vibrant colors in churches (as you could probably guess from many of the inclusions in this competition), so I love the look of St. Bernard’s from what I can see online. I appreciate the suggestion and will do my best to get it on the bracket for next year! Thanks for visiting!

      • Thank you Patrick! We are not a wealthy parish at all, in spite of our surroundings. But with the help of our good pastor, we are doing our best to keep up with maintenance and repairs. We are so very fortunate. You and your readers are always welcome at St. Bernard, in person or on our website.. God bless!

      • Following up on Robert Tripp’s comments about the lighting at St. Anthony in Massachusetts, St. Bernard was also fitted in the same way. If you have looked at the pix of the interior of the church ceiling, the ribs of the ceiling (I do not know the proper architectural term) held hundreds of light bulbs in the middle of each flower. As Robert mentioned, when the church was lit in this way in 1905, it overloaded the electrical circuits, although it must have made for quite a show. I think there is a photo from that era that shows the lighting for the first Mass when the church was consecrated. The ceiling lights, except for the chandeliers, were disconnected because it simply was not practical.

        When the ceiling needed the painting and murals touched up a few years later, the light bulbs were painted over, so the story goes. Even in the balcony, it is too far away to see if the bulbs are still there.

      • St. Anthony lights up those lights in the sanctuary for Mass every Sunday. But only lights the nave and chapels for special feasts. I believe they now use LED bulbs.

  4. ” From the Basilica Website: Immaculate Conception! DC.” The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America and is one of the ten largest churches in the world. Designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a National Sanctuary of Prayer and Pilgrimage, the Basilica is the nation’s preeminent Marian shrine, dedicated to the patroness of the United States—the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. It is oftentimes affectionately referred to as America’s Catholic Church. For more information on selected features, please click on the animated hotspots.”

  5. This is so much fun! Well, my parish is in the running, so I am very interested in the outcome. But honestly, there are so many beautiful churches it’s really impossible to say in many instances that one is more beautiful than another.
    I wonder though, I was not able to see the current standing (percentage-wise) unless I voted again. But I really wasn’t trying to “throw the vote” by voting more than once. I only wanted to see the voting.
    Thanks for doing this. It’s a hoot!

  6. So many beautiful choices! Two recommendations: St. John Guardian of Our Lady in Clinton MA, and Ste. Marie in Manchester NH. (maybe they’ve already been mentioned) 🙂 Peace and joy!

    • Hi Anne! Thanks for the great comment. I’m happy to tell you that both of your suggestions were featured in the tournament already! They were knocked out in the earlier rounds, unfortunately.

  7. Come on St. Louisans, we’re running behind Chicago. Send this to all of your Facebook friends.

  8. This is one of the greatest things I have ever seen! It’s my alternative to March Madness. I love it! The amount of excitement I obtain from this is ridiculous though! I find it hilarious! #VoteCathedraloftheMadeleine

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