Holy Spirit, Atlanta
Holy 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
- 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.
- Antique silver claret jug, used as water ewer. Made in London,
in 1838, by Joshua and Albert Savory (on permanent loan to the pastor).
- 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.
- 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.
- Monstrance, brass plated, made by Benzinger Brothers, exact
date unknown, early 20th century.