National Shrine of the Little Flower – Royal Oak, Michigan

National Shrine of the Little Flower – Royal Oak, Michigan

In Royal Oak, on the northeast corner of Woodward and 12 Mile, stands one of the Detroit area’s most distinctive structures, The National Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic Church. Built between 1931 and 1936, the shrine was designed by architect Henry McGill of the New York based firm, Hamlin & McGill, with elaborate exterior sculpture by noted art-deco master, Rene Paul Chambellan.

The Shrine was originally the brainchild of one Michael J. Gallagher, Archbishop of the Diocese of Detroit from 1918 to 1937, who in May of 1925, after witnessing the canonization of Saint Therese of Lisieux (aka The Little Flower) in Rome, was determined to establish the first U.S. parish in her honor. The Shrine’s first priest, Charles E. Coughlin, financed the building primarily through the contributions of listeners to his nationally syndicated Sunday afternoon radio program on WJR. Coughlin, over his many years of broadcasting, developed quite the disturbing anti-semetic reputation and was eventually silenced, through all kinds of shady FCC and postal related legalism, by the second Roosevelt Administration. (I Love Detroit Michigan prefers to focus on the architecture, not the controversy, but recommends you check out this Wikipedia entry for some very interesting light reading).

Sculptor Chambellan also has a well-developed reputation that precedes his part in creating the shrine, most notably for his richly ornamented work on the world-famous Tribune Tower in Chicago. We also recommend you read more about Chambellan’s life and stunning body of work.

Stay tuned! I Love Detroit Michigan plans to publish, in the very near future, a detailed photo study of this gorgeous Shrine’s extensive interior sculpture by one of our favorite local legends and artisans, Corrado Parducci. ~I♥DM

Dale Carlson

Dale Carlson grew up along the northeastern shores of Lake Michigan, where at a young age Detroit called out to him in his dreams. In 2008, after extended stays in ten different Michigan cities, the author settled permanently in southeast Oakland County where he currently lives and works in various capacities within the local real estate industry.