I knew nothing of the Baha’i Faith before our visit last month, but I knew I wasn’t going to pass up seeing this architectural wonder when it’s geographically close enough in terms of the planet to be in my back yard. If only I could say the same for Egypt’s pyramids, India’s Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China. Mankind’s architectural accomplishments never cease to amaze me. So many wonders, so little time.
So many sides too, to this magnificent edifice!
Nine to be exact; which of course put me on cloud nine (where else!) as Jim and I explored the gardens leading up to this shining white twenty-story landmark.
Each of the nine columns supporting the temple rest on concrete piers sunk 90 feet below the water level of nearby Lake Michigan. In keeping with the Baha’i Faith’s beliefs that “all religions, races and sects may come together within its universal shelter”, each column is adorned with etchings depicting religious symbols from all faiths, including the Christian Cross, the Judaism Star of David as well as the Hindu and Buddhism religious symbols. Throughout the building also are discernible details reflecting Early Egyptian, Persian, Byzantine, Greek, Renaissance and Gothic styles.
I did notice there is no alter, no fixed pulpit; I learned there is no clergy to deliver sermons or conduct elaborate ceremonies. The people of the Baha'i Faith as well as guest speakers from all religions provide the lessons important to Baha'is. There are no images or pictures painted or posted; no stained glass, no musical instruments of any kind used during prayer services. All music is sung a cappella by a choir or soloist from a hidden balcony three stories high. A single Arabic symbol representing the phrase, “Greatest Name,” which means glory or splendor is engraved at the center of the dome 138 feet above. Along the walls of each of the nine sides, above the windows and doors, are inscriptions reflecting the Baha’i Faith.
One particular inscription still resonates for me as does the memory of that magnificent monument to mankind's accomplishments and faith: “Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch.”
The bottom line on the Baha'i House of Worship:
- Verdict: Euclid aside, if you're in the Chicago area, you don't want to miss this architectural
wonder. Admission is free. As per the website, the Baha'i House of Worship is a gift to
humanity from the Baha'i community. Donations are neither sought nor accepted.
- How to Get There: From Chicago's Lakeshore Drive head North until it ends at Sheridan
Road. Follow Sheridan Road through Evanston past Northwestern University. Turn left onto
Linden Avenue. Temple will be on the right.
Outside the city, take Highway 94 E/W to exit 34 and Lake Avenue. Follow
Lake Avenue East to Sheridan Road. Turn right on Sheridan Road, then right on Linden
Via the CTA (the "L") take the purple line North to Linden Avenue (the final stop). Go right
on Linden Avenue for 4 blocks. Temple will be on the left side of the street.
- Insider Information: Jim and I visited the Baha'i House of Worship mid-morning on a
weekday on a hot summer day. The gardens were no longer in full bloom but then neither
was the number of visitors. Given 250,000 people visit the site each year, we felt fortunate
our experience was so private. Be aware that daily devotions are scheduled at 12:30 p.m.
which simply means you may see more people on the grounds and inside the temple at that
time. Be sure to check the Baha'i website for special events, such as weddings, memorial
services or commemorations that may turn your visit into an event of epic proportions.
- Nearby Food: Jim and I did not eat in the area, but several restaurants are available three
blocks west of the House of Worship near 4th Street and Linden Avenue. Downtown
Evanston is 10 minutes south.