In an unassuming Minneapolis Longfellow neighborhood quietly stands Christ Church Lutheran, a National Historic Landmark of 20th century church architecture…an architecturally remarkable, spiritually fulfilling and historic space.
When this congregation decided to build a new building in 1949, they rejected the Gothic type design popular at the time and turned instead to simpler Scandinavian design. They chose the Finnish born architect Eliel Saarinen to build an "honest" church. Himself the son of a Lutheran pastor, this humble church became almost a hobby for him and it turned out to be his last work, completed just six months before his death. His "honest" use of light, brick, stone and concrete created a space of stunning simplicity, tranquility and spirituality.
A first reaction upon entering the sanctuary is its striking simplicity…yet its spiritual quality hints that the design is far from simplistic. It is asymmetrical, and upon closer examination you find that no two surfaces are parallel. The cross is ethereally lit by southern windows extending from floor to ceiling but not visible from most of the sanctuary…opposite a curved wall…extending to an undulating brick upper wall…slanted ceiling…and so it continues with details throughout the sanctuary. There are no parallel surfaces in the church, and sound-absorbent surfaces are placed across from sound-reflective surfaces. As a result, in addition to being an inspiring physical space its acoustics are probably among the finest of religious buildings in the country.
When the congregation of Christ Church Lutheran sought to add an education wing in 1962 they turned to Eliel's famous son, Eero Saarinen. Known for his exuberant designs, including the St. Louis Gateway Arch, he created a wonderful homage to his father's masterpiece. The joined pair of buildings stands today as a rare example of the father's and son's works combined.
As part of a current joint exhibition with Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Walker Art Center exploring the work of Eero Saarinen they are hosting a photographic exhibit, "Christ Church Lutheran: Three Photographic Visions". It is open through January 4, 2009…Wednesdays 10 am – 3 pm and Thursdays 6-8 pm. I stopped at another time during the week and was graciously welcomed when I buzzed for admittance.
Christ Church Lutheran will be also open for docent led tours on Sunday, December 14, 2008. Sunday morning worship begins at 9:30 am. All are welcome. Tours start in the courtyard at 11:00 am, Noon, and 1:00 PM. The cost is $10.00 per person.
Click here to see properties currently for sale in the Minneapolis area around Christ Lutheran Church at the corner of 34th Ave S & 33nd Street. (Please be patient while the link searches for the most current listings…pass your cursor over the dots on the map for property information.)