While the others were in the powder room, I struck up a conversation with the door attendant. He was not bent on converting me or anything like that, but he was a chatty guy with lots of knowledge and answers to my questions.
He led me toward some displays with info about the group. The photo above came from one of the posters. It is an aerial view of the temple, pools, and gardens. Lake Michigan is in the background.
The Bahá'í faith is one of the youngest of the world's major religions. It was founded in Persia (now Iran) in 1863 by Baha''u'llah. Their world center is located in Acre, Israel, with sacred gardens in Haifa, Israel. This structure is the major North American House of Worship and there are seven more major Houses throughout the world.
Followers believe that throughout history God has revealed Himself through a series of Divine Messengers stretching back in order from Krishna, Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, The Bâb, and finally to Bahá'u'lláh (the Promised One of this era). Well, there is way more to it than that, but I won't elaborate. It is an interesting concept though.
In the U.S., there are about 155,000 Bahá'ís living in every state, but mostly California, Georgia, Illinois, South Carolina, Texas, and also over 100 American Indian reservations. There is no clergy and church affairs are administered by elected councils at all levels.
Louis Bourgeois is the architect of this particular temple. This spectacular structure is the oldest and largest Bahá'í Temple in the world. Its cornerstone was laid in 1912 and the building was finally dedicated in 1953. This unique building is on the U.S. Register of Historic Places.
Each of the eight temples around the world has its own personality but all are nine-sided with a central majestic dome in the middle. The overall style of the one here does not incorporate eastern or western traits, but transcends any specific culture. It is very ornamental with much symbolism.
Here is a test panel from the 1920's to learn if the material would withstand the harsh Chicago weather. After much experimentation, panels were made by casting concrete with a combination of quartz crystal and white cement to make a lacy but durable affect.
Hundreds of precisely sized panels were hung over the building's steel superstructure. Here are photos of the intricate detail work.
Top of the dome.
Many windows circle around the building to bring in natural light.
The surrounding gardens are also considered one sacred space with the temple and a place for meditation, reflection, and prayer. You are welcome to walk on the grass among nine individually secluded pools and fountains.
The last surprise was that "only Bahá'ís may make donations." Voluntary contributions are a spiritual privilege restricted to members of this faith. So no money box waiting by the entrance.
When I got home and told my mom where I had visited, she said, "Oh, I visited there when I was a youngster." She was surprised it was still there. Well, she is going to be 90 this year, so that seems like bygone days to her, I imagine.
I am not a traditionally religious person, but do consider myself spiritual. I liked the concepts here, but not enough to join ranks.
More info on the history and religion:
To see all the eight Temples: