Inside The Church of the Most Holy Redeemer
This week we delve into the Pewabic tile work commissioned for The Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Detroit, Michigan. This massive edifice was built in 1921 and dedicated in 1923. It was once estimated to be the largest Roman Catholic parish in North America.
Exterior of The Church of The Most Holy Redeemer
Pewabic tile can be found on the vestry floor, the aisleways, and on the floor of the main altar of the interior. The exterior facade features two lunettes above the doorway–– depicting two angels in prayer with mosaic medallion insets.
Pewabic Co-Founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton writes: “At the time we were executing the library work, we were also making two lunette panels for the exterior of the church of the Holy Redeemer, under the direct supervision of Walter Meier, architect, who was also one of our personal friends.”
Fun Fact: the lunettes from this installation were being crafted at the same time as the Pewabic mosaic tiles for the Detroit Public Library
The words “Gloria in Excelsis” are set in a border of pineapples and annunciation lilies above this lunette are meant to symbolize the birth of Christ. Our 4”x6” Pineapple Tile reminds us of the border along these ambitious tile pieces.
Terra cotta sculpted tile details
Pewabic’s devotional collection of decorative tiles pay tribute to the extensive tile work commissioned in various parishes, cathedrals, churches and basilicas. Most notably, The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception located in Washington, D.C.
Tile work on interior floors of The Church of The Most Holy Redeemer
Let’s take a closer look at the interior floor installations. Terra cotta, unglazed tile is accented with glazed units modeled to depict symbolic eccelesiastical forms. The Four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are represented by their symbolic forms in these intricate, sculpted tiles.
Four Evangelists tile details (left) and unglazed Pewabic tile on interior floors (right)
This was a huge project for the pottery in 1922. Co-Founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton charged over $12,000 for this project which equates to around $200,000 in 2020.
Exterior with lunette above doorway (left) and Pewabic tile work surrounding interior altar (right)
Our archives team has been working to catalog historic records, images, and correspondences regarding Pewabic tile installations throughout the city and beyond. Do you have a personal connection to The Church of the Most Holy Redeemer? Would you like to hear more about a particular Pewabic piece or installation? We encourage you to reach out through the comments section, or on our social channels (@Pewabic) as we continue to share highlights of Pewabic’s past and present.
I first have to give gratitude to a fellow classmate, Tom Moody, for directing me to this article… A church is absolutely magnificent and to learn the superiority of the craftsmanship only adds to the spiritual presence one feels there. A true treasure for all .
Was baptized, married and my children and my husband band attended Holy Redeemer. Every time I go to mass there I am still in awe of the peace and beauty of this church. I always feel I am returning home. Love this church.
Holy Redeemer was my parish growing up and I also attended both the grade school and the middle school. I have such fond memories of Holy Redeemer and the nuns and priests whose service to our community will never be forgotten. The church is a lovely church and it wasn’t until fairly recently I realized how important much of the art in the church is. I wish there was a comprehensive book about the art of the churches in Detroit!
Mary Ann McKenna
Coming from New Jersey to Grosse Pte
Park was a wonderful experience and
I often visited the pottery for gifts and
Just to enjoy the beauty. We bought a house with Pewaibic floors and a duck
Sink and enjoyed our treasured Pewaibic installations.
Joanne Parrino Blumhardt
I attended Holy Redeemer school for 12 years. Class of ‘68. My grandfather was a bricklayer with the construction of the church. My mother was baptized, confirmed and married at Holy Redeemer as were all 5 children.
I remember my husbands family being in awe of the beautiful church. Many wonderful memories
My Grandparents Irene and Joseph Drozanowski, were married at Most Holy Redeemer church in 1916 and raised their family there. (This was before the permanent church was built.
My parents (Francis Droze and Eileen Sullivan). Were both raised in that parish and attended grammar school and high school there and were married there in 1945. I was baptized there (Susan Mary Droze). but moved to Redford.
Thank you for featuring Holy Redeemer, such an important place in the history of Detroit’s immigrant communities! I suggest a Detroit Historical Museum Behind the Scenes tour of this historical gem!
Terry Salazar Zoltowski
Thank you for posting about this beautiful church. So proud to have gone to high school there and so many masses. Class of ’68.
There were so many buildings in Detroit that had Pewabic tile in them. In my parents home in Detroit, our hearth was Pewabic tile. The floors in Most Holy Redeemer are absolutely beautiful.
I also recognized this edifice immediately after attending school from 1958 to 1971 along with the best classmates a person could ever hope to spend that amount of time with. I had no idea what Pewabic anything was until I read this article. I always knew that Holy Redeemer was a special place in a very special city.
My father graduated from Holy Redeemer high school in 1942. My family has deep roots in Detroit and this article on Pewabic pottery at Holy Redeemer will bring warm feelings. Thank you
I immediately recognized the building in this photo, as I attended Holy Redeemer High School from 1983-1987. During this time I spent many hours in the church—listening to sermons, breathing in frankincense, and confessing my “sins” to elderly priests. I made the sacrament of confirmation and even served as an extra there for the 1987 film, The Rosary Murders, starring Donald Sutherland and Charles Durning, and produced by Robert Laurel, who had graduated from Holy Redeemer High School in 1956. Their trailers were stationed in the parking lot between the church and the high school. (The Holy Redeemer complex consumed almost an entire city block, like a giant four poster, anchored in the corners by the church/rectory, grade school, convent, and high school, all of which surrounded a bed of asphalt used primarily as a parking lot). As a teenager, I was oblivious to the magnificent detail and artistic skill involved in constructing this impressive house of worship. Such an awareness would develop slowly over time, well beyond my high school years and the struggles of teen angst, which I believe were largely due to a lack of creative expression.
As a self-described “artphobe,” I avoided trying my hand at anything artistic until I was in my late thirties (I’m now fifty years old), when a friend encouraged me to take a class at Pewabic Pottery. I’d grown to appreciate the beauty of Pewabic tiles and finally gathered the courage to enroll in a tile making class. However, due to a scheduling conflict, I switched to a throwing class. After overcoming my terror at the prospect of throwing clay on the potter’s wheel (I didn’t actually know what throwing was until the first day of class), I quickly fell in love with clay and began to feel quite at home in the education studio. With the help of patient instructors (including the late, great JoAnn Aquinto) and fellow students, I managed to hone my skills as a potter and now have my own home studio. One of my greatest pleasures in life has been the opportunity to share my work with others.
Working with clay has profoundly enriched my life. And while clay remains my preferred medium for creative expression, my experience with it has offered me the confidence to experiment with other art forms as well. I wonder now—in seeing these images of an old, familiar structure with new, admiring eyes—if perhaps my love of pottery began quietly (even spiritually) as I crossed the threshold and approached the altar at Holy Redeemer Church.
Fantastic. Thanks for this story. Maybe, when we can safely gather again, a guided walking tour could be put together of a few old buildings in Detroit that feature Pewabic installations? Holy Redeemer Church included? Thanks. Great job.
Fantastic. Thanks for highlighting the history of Pewabic in major building projects in the Detroit area. Please continue these stories. Maybe, when we can safely gather again, a guidedwalking tou
Sherry D. Kammer
Thank you so much! I’ve certainly heard of Most Holy Redeemer, but I had no idea it had so much Pewabic pottery. Stunning!
I love that your work is all over Detroit. We had Pewabic tile on our fireplace 601 Lodge Dr. Detroit 48214. Some of the tiles in Holy Redeemer matched ours. I went to Annunciation and there is Pewabic tile in that church as well. Never noticed it all those years we were in school there.
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December 01, 2021
Color me surprised — yet again. I had no knowledge of Pewabic Pottery in connection to Holy Redeemer while attending high school, or until this moment. My connection to Pewabic Pottery came about 35 years later while working for the National Park Service at Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet and Hancock Color me surprised — yet again. I had no knowledge of Pewabic Pottery in connection to Holy Redeemer while attending high school (1966-70), or until this moment. My connection to Pewabic Pottery came about 35 years later while working for the National Park Service at Keweenaw National Historical Park in Calumet. An historic house in Hancock, MI was the childhood home of Mary Chase Perry (Stratton), the co-founder of Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery. Amazing how tangential moments through history often connect within our own lives! , MI. A historic house in Hancock was the childhood home of Mary Chase Perry (Stratton), the co-founder of Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery. I have been in awe of Pewabic Pottery ever since — and now this! Amazing how tangential moments through history often connect within our own lives!