Shrine Of the Little Flower Church – Royal Oak, Michigan

I have taken my friend Christophe’s advice and tried to photograph the art deco beauty in the Shrine of the Little Flower, and see past my prejudice about its controversial history.

At the corner of Twelve Mile Road and Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak Michigan, the church is one of metropolitan Detroit’s landmark buildings. New York architect Henry J. McGill was commissioned to design the tower in 1927. The sanctuary, an unusual octagonal shaped design with the altar in the center and seats on all sides was constructed and as funds became available and was completed in 1933. Behind Christ’s head, near the top of the tower, reached by a spiral staircase, is the room from which Father Coughlin broadcast his radio programs.

Because of the unusual configuration of the property and the resulting restrictions, the architect had great difficulty devising a workable plan. He considered thousands of ideas. McGill’s final design features the church proper, an octagon, with four two-story “wings” that, together with the narthex and the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, create an overall shape of a cross. The roof is built to evoke the feeling of a tent as described in the Book of Exodus. The primitive sanctuaries of the Old Testament were protected by a heavy cover, which was stretched from an elevated central pole and reached down beyond the vertical framework of the sanctuary. The church roof is faced with copper and nickel-chrome steel. The entire structure is capped with a crown, which is surmounted by a golden cross. The crown, forming the base of the cross, also serves as ventilation for the church.

This building was made possible by revenues generated by its pastor Father Coughlin, the fiery and controversial radio personality whose broadcasts had 3.5 million listeners at the height of his popularity. Father Coughlin, initially a supporter of the programs of President Franklin Roosevelt, and later a strenuous opponent, spoke on the radio about economics and politics more that religion or spirituality. His broadcasts and his magazine Social Justice espoused anti –Semitic and fascist policies favored by Benito Mussolini and Hitler. He railed against what he called the “Jewish – Bolshevik” conspiracy. He was finally forced off the air in 1939 just after the German invasion of Poland. He continued his efforts in his magazine until he was finally forced by the Bishop of Detroit, to cease his political activity and resume his duties as a parish priest.

For more information about Father Coughlin:



Uploaded by ShinsanBC on 20 Aug 09, 5.42PM EDT.

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