The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta  

Holy Spirit, AtlantaHoly Spirit, Atlanta

June 20, 1964
4465 Northside Drive
Atlanta, Georgia 30327
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Parish History

Holy SpiritHoly Spirit Parish was established on June 20, 1964, with 250 families, from territory taken largely from the Cathedral of Christ the King Parish. Father John McDonough was the first pastor, and he guided the fledgling Parish from his residence at the Cathedral.

In October, 1964, Father McDonough was named rector of the Cathedral, and Father Joseph Ware was appointed pastor of Holy Spirit. He served until 1966, when Msgr. McDonough returned as pastor. During this time a house on Lake Forest Drive was purchased as a rectory. Mass was celebrated first in the Pace Academy cafeteria, and later at Dykes High School (now Sutton Middle School).

The present property at the corner of Mt. Paran Road and Northside Drive, formerly a part of the old Fulton County stone quarry, was purchased in 1965. Two years later, in May 1967, the octagonal, multi-purpose building was completed and served as church, education center and offices. In 1971, a rectory was completed and served both as residence for the priests and the site of the parish offices.

In September 1972, Msgr. McDonough was re-assigned as rector of the Cathedral, at which time Father Ware returned as pastor to Holy Spirit. Father (later Monsignor) E. Peter Ludden was named pastor in June 1975. During his tenure plans were undertaken for the construction of a separate church and the education building. The church was completed in March 1977, designed to seat 320 people; the education building was completed in 1980. This phase of construction was financed, in part, by the sale of the multi-purpose building and 13 acres. At the time the parish numbered 300 households. A parish hall was later added.

Father Alan Dillmann was assigned as pastor in June 1981, and served until June 1987, when Father Edward J. Dillon was named pastor. By that time the parish had grown to 550 households.

A long-range planning study in 1988 settled on a number of priorities, which included implementation of RENEW and the development of new physical facilities to meet the projected growth in the parish. The original estimate was that the parish would be at 1,500 households by the year 2005.

The new physical plant is in several sections. The seating capacity of the Church (808 without using overflow capability) exceeds current needs -- its size is dictated by preparation for future growth and by the current educational needs. The Education Center is sufficiently large to permit us to conduct all Sunday religious education programs in a single session. A very significant new program is the opening, in September 1995, of our Holy Spirit Preschool, which will serve as a feeder program for the Archbishop Donnellan School (grades K through 8), which will open in September 1996 in a facility on Long Island Drive.

The availability of a large parish hall, by converting the existing church, enables the parish to accommodate the increased attendance at social functions. In addition, a small chapel (St. Mary's Chapel) is available for weekday Masses and for small funerals and weddings. The new facilities were designed to bring into greater prominence the outdoor chapel (renamed the Sts. Francis and Anthony Chapel).

Tour the church

Exterior of the Church

The building follows the design of the Romanesque Revival period which started around the beginning of the 20th century. The particular style is that of H. H. Richardson, whose work became known as Richarsonian Architecture. He used stone and brick to create a heavy solid design, based on Romanesque architecture of the 11th and 12th century. The brick detailing of this building is based on that period, and the color of the brick is similar to the churches in Tuscany, Italy. The design is intended to reflect solidity and strength.

There are many notable masonry features in the brickwork, a major one being that the brick pattern over the entrance juts over three feet from the main surface of the wall. It won the 1994 Award of Excellence, first place, from the Masonry Association of Georgia.

Some trivia about the building: 350,000 bricks were used for the walls, while the roof took 88 tons of green Vermont slate. Looking closely at the roof line, it is possible to discern a series of copper lightening conductors, the last of which is encased in a finial in the shape of the fleur-de-lis. An impression of the height of the roof line can be obtained by realizing that the finial itself is almost 5 feet tall. Contrary to initial impression, the building sits on an almost exact east-west axis. The cross at the apex of the tower is of lightweight aluminum. Its base member and the capping steel beam in the tower were signed by parishioners before being set in place. Both beams are visible -- by climbing to the highest level inside the tower itself.

Consistent with the medieval Romanesque style, the entrance to the church has two doorways, the Alpha and the Omega -- God the beginning and end. It was customary for the faithful to enter the church by one door (representing baptism) and leave by the other door (symbolizing death and entrance into eternal life).

Transition spaces were an important feature of temple architecture, going back to at least the Temple built by Solomon in the Old Testament. People gradually transitioned from the secular to the sacred through stages, the final being the Holy of Holies, which was entered only by the High Priest. That sort of transition is represented in this building. One ascends the steps to a first level, then another stair to a portico, then to the narthex, which leads to the main church and, finally, the sanctuary itself, which is reserved for the ministers of the Church.

The tower to the left of the main entrance houses a chandelier which is designed after one that hangs in Memorial Hall on the campus of Harvard University. Historically the tower housed the bells which were rung to call the people to worship.

The Narthex

While a transition space in theory, the Narthex serves many practical purposes. It is a gathering space in which people can socialize before and after Mass. Because of the windows and the speakers attached to the public address system, people can see and hear Mass and other services in this area, so it serves as a "cry room" and as overflow space for major celebrations.

The paneling copies the design of Richardson, which uses multiple square panels, a design which is consistent throughout the Church. The flooring is marble, with a center inset of carpet. In medieval churches, the entrance would contain a metal grate, about one inch thick, which served to remove grit from people's shoes to avoid scaring the marble. This carpet serves an identical purpose.

The Nave

The main interior of the church is in the shape of a Latin Cross, comprised of the main nave and sanctuary, bisected by two transepts. The design emphasizes the Blessed Trinity: there are three rose windows above the altar; three main areas - the sanctuary, nave and transepts, three bays in each transept and in the nave. The Cross is also dominant. It can be seen in the design of the windows, in all the woodwork and, particularly, in the hand-carved Linden wood cross suspended over the sanctuary. The figure of Christ wears Mass vestments, depicting Christ the High Priest. It was carved and painted in Italy. Throughout the building, and in all the furniture, a form of the Greek Cross is represented in the quatrefoils.

Seating in the nave is in pews, which are a style called "Notre Dame." The pew ends contain the quatrefoil symbol as well as the Romanesque arches. Seating in the transepts is in chairs, which keeps the majority of the congregation close to the sanctuary.

On entering the nave, one notices the arches, a design which comes from the Richardson influence. All the arches seen in the building are proportioned to their individual space. The ceiling is a coffered style, 63 feet above the floor at its highest point, while the marble floor is based on the Romanesque period. There is an overall simplicity of design which is influenced by the Romanesque architecture.

An unusual feature is the slope of the floor toward the altar. It is most clearly noticeable by standing in the side aisles (ambulatory) and looking at the paneling at the floor level -- notice that the trim at the bottom goes from 0 to 12". Still standing at the center doors inside the nave, notice the four pillars -- two at the front of the church and two at the rear -- on which hang brass candle holders and Celtic crosses. The Crosses represent the place at which the walls are anointed by the Archbishop during the dedication ceremony. The Candles burn there during the dedication ceremony itself, and each year on anniversary of the dedication.

On both outer walls are Stations of the Cross. Station number 1 is in the right transept (as one faces the altar) and they continue along the right wall to the back, ending there with Station number 7. They continue along the left wall, from back to front. Made of Linden wood, the Stations were carved and painted in Italy. The wall paneling was designed to incorporate each Station in a cross design, with a square frame across the transverse members of the cross, and each one is highlighted by a small spot-light.

On the walls above the arches are wooden quatrefoils, a design which continues around the walls of the transepts and right up into the sanctuary area. The three on either side of the Nave actually camouflage the heating and air-conditioning registers. The remainder are decorative.

Along the back wall are four holy water fonts. The two on the outside walls are white Carrara marble. They were carved for St. Anthony Church, in West End, Atlanta and originally installed there shortly before World War I. They were donated to Holy Spirit parish by the Pastor and Parish Council of St. Anthony's Church, and restored as a gift by a Holy Spirit parishioner who was herself baptized in St. Anthony's. The two holy water fonts in the center aisle are built into tables which hold the offertory gifts during Mass. The fonts are made of Botticino marble, the same as the altar, the tabernacle stand and the baptismal fount.

The Sanctuary

The sanctuary furniture was all designed by the building architects, and is influenced by the Richardson design. It reflects the mass and solidity of the building. All the arches and designs in the individual pieces reflect the relative proportion of the piece to the overall proportion of the building.

The pulpit replicates the older style pulpit, consistent with the architecture of the church. It stands eighteen inches above the level of the sanctuary, and is based on five sides of an octagon. In addition to the pulpit, the presider's chair, the 5 large sanctuary chairs, the kneelers and the lectern were carved locally by a German-born craftsman, Herbert Ernst. Each piece contains in an obscure place the name of the carver -- including the Tabernacle keys. He also carved the Confessional Screens, which stand in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the Baptismal Chapel. This is the old style of a confessional, adapted for modern usage so as to permit the penitent to have anonymity or to speak face-to-face with the priest; and is adapted from the design of the confessional in the Coronation Church in Budapest.

Worthy of special note is the golden Tabernacle in the chapel to the right of the sanctuary. It is carved by the same artisan of red oak, with an interior of white leather. The exterior is gold leafed by a craftsman who "unretired" specifically for the project, and contains 160 leaves of 24 carat gold. The ceremonial key for the Tabernacle is also gold-leafed. The design, drawn by the architects, is based upon the Tabernacle in the Basilica of St. Francis, in Assisi, Italy.

The Tabernacle stands on a base of Botticino marble at the entrance of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Following the Second Vatican Council, liturgical norms dictate that the Tabernacle should not detract from the prominence of the altar of sacrifice. It is desirable that it be in a space apart, which is achieved here through physical design. The chapel area is marked off by columns and floor design -- the Tabernacle itself is situated in such a way that, in accordance with Archdiocesan application of liturgical norms, the Tabernacle itself if in the main worship area and is visible to the congregation.

Inside the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, there hangs a chandelier made of Waterford crystal. An identical chandelier hangs in the Baptismal Chapel on the opposite side.

Immediately above, and to the left of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, is the sanctuary lamp. Church law dictates that whenever the Blessed Sacrament is in the Tabernacle a light is to burn near by -- by tradition the light is usually in a red globe. This lamp was installed in Immaculate Conception Chapel at Mount Saint Mary's Seminary and College, Emittsburg, Maryland, in 1911. It was removed during modernization of the Chapel in the late 1970s, and donated by the College to Holy Spirit Church in 1994 for restoration and installation here. Originally it included a counter-balancing weight system permitting easy lowering of the entire assembly to facilitate re-filling the oil which was burned in the lamp. At this installation, the weights were removed and the lamp electrified.

Immediately above the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, facing the nave, is a stand which supports a statue of Mary with the child Jesus -- the Madonna of the Streets. On the corresponding spot above the Baptismal Chapel is a statue of St. Joseph the Worker. These statues, as well as the Cross above the altar and the Stations of the Cross are hand carved from Linden wood and painted in Italy.

The altar stands alone as the Altar of Sacrifice. In accord with liturgical norms, it is elevated above the level of the nave, symbolizing its sacredness. In the ceremony dedicating of the Church, the altar is anointed with the oil of Chrism, a separate dedication in preparation for the sacred function it serves. It is made of Botticino marble, carved and polished in Carrara, Italy by the Mario Padrini family. Shipped in 24 sections and assembled on site, it weighs in a total of 4 1/2 tons. The table of the altar is a single solid piece of marble, weighing 1 1/2 tons and measuring 8' x 4'. In the floor directly beneath the altar is a stone taken from the Sea of Galilee at the site of the Primacy of Peter, the location at which Jesus told Peter: "You are Peter (Rock), and upon this rock I will build my Church..."

The wood paneling throughout the church is red oak, milled to a special design for this church. With the exception of the reredos, behind the altar, all the paneling was assembled in place. The reredos was built at the mill in sections and assembled and finished in the church. The design is based on the reredos behind the bishop's chair in the Cathedral of Kildare and Leighlin, Carlow, Ireland. Traditionally the reredos was an ornate wall which stood behind the altar, and was developed as part of architectural design around the 4th or 5th century. It was usually highly decorated with carvings or paintings. Frequently it had a niche for the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament as well as a place for candlesticks and flowers. The priest faced it when he celebrated the Mass, with his back to the people. The liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council the altar was moved away from the reredos so that the priest could celebrate Mass facing the people. Thus, the reredos serves as a backdrop to the entire sanctuary rather then just simply to the altar.

The Choir Gallery

Before leaving the sanctuary area, look toward the rear of the church for a view of the choir gallery. It is situated at the rear of the church to enhance the acoustics. The Rose Window depicts Mary, Queen of Heaven. On either side of the windows are the pipes and chests of the organ, which was designed specially for the church. It presently consists of 18 ranks of pipes, each containing 63 individual pipes, supplemented by electronics. By intentional design, the building has a highly lively acoustical quality so as to enhance singing and music -- it has in excess of 3 seconds reverberation time when completely empty, and approximately 1.9 second when packed with people. Compensating for the echo this produces, in order to make the spoken voice intelligible, involved development of an elaborate public address system. It contains two complete clusters of speakers, one at the front built into the arch above the presider's chair, the other toward the read, and individual speakers in the transepts, each camouflaged in the stands on which rest the statues of Mary and Joseph.

The Stained Glass Windows

The stained glass is by Lynchburg Stained Glass.

Art and Antiques

The Church contains a number of unusual or antique items which are used in special ceremonies. Most are not on display but may be viewed by special arrangement.

  1. St. Mary's Chapel (in the other building) contains a hand-carved cross depicting Christ the High Priest, almost identical to the cross in the main church. The Chapel cross, however, was carved in Chicago in 1945, and is of hydra stone. It depicts Christ vested as a Bishop, and wearing on his left arm the Maniple - an item of priestly Mass vesture which was abandoned following the Second Vatican Council.
  2. Antique silver claret jug, used as water ewer. Made in London, in 1838, by Joshua and Albert Savory (on permanent loan to the pastor).
  3. Bronze candelabra, exact date unknown but shortly post- Civil War. Legend attached to them is that they were stolen in that era from a church somewhere in Louisiana. They were received, in the 1890s, by the grandfather of a Holy Spirit parishioner in payment for legal services.
  4. Offertory gift set, with two Waterford crystal carafes, for the bread and wine brought to the altar at the offertory of the Mass. The plate is 58 ozs. of silver and 24 carat gold, hand chased in a Celtic design, made for Holy Spirit Church by William Fleming in Ireland.
  5. Monstrance, brass plated, made by Benzinger Brothers, exact date unknown, early 20th century.