Abandoned Abbeys


As we stood static beneath the crumbling mural of the apse, a cold wind fluttered in through the openings surrounding us. Where once stained glass was held in place now remain bare frames circling the upper walls, pouring chilled air into the desolate chapel, and down towards the altar like waterfalls into a small oasis. The fluttering of birds fills the space high above the altar, and even higher up through the towers that remain, slowly collapsing in the chapels front.

This church was completed in 1933 to serve a part of Cleveland’s  Carpatho-Rusyn population. The Rusyns are an Eastern Slavic ethnic group originating from the Carpathian Mountains; primarily near the borders of modern day Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia, and small parts of Poland.

Come the 17th century, after having practiced Orthodox Christianity since the 9th century when brought to the Slavic people by saints Cyril and Methodius, they had now become part of the Catholic Church. In the late 1800’s, many Rusyns came to Cleveland, and had established many ornate Byzantine Catholic Churches throughout the area.

This beautiful Romanesque-style temple, designed by Polish-American architect Joseph E. Fronczak, now covering a smaller structure previously built in 1913, lies tucked away within a small Cleveland neighborhood. Symmetrical bell towers peak from the tops of trees, overlooking the streets that run along its sides. Two flanking side isles run along its interior, supported by beautifully decayed columns, topped with Corinthian-inspired capitals.



Various biblical scenes remain painted, faded by rain and the elements, within the barrel vaulting. Crumbled plaster hangs from the archway as the sun shines brightly through the opening where a door used to sit. So what has become of this 80 year old architectural landmark?

The St. Joseph Byzantine Rite Catholic Church will sit abandoned on its 80th birthday as it has spent half of this life in ruin. For the past 40 years, rain, wind, snow, and time have begun to paint over the beautiful murals throughout the structure. Summers burn through into autumn; while in the same way, autumn falls to winter. Some of the murals have been faded by the rain, as others have fallen to the floor, crumbling with the passing of time; ceilings caving to the weight of heavy snowfall, and strong winds of winter.


The most preserved mural as of today, is that residing in the apse, above the cracking marble altar pallet. It depicts the Christ child, joined by his earthly parents Mary and Joseph, for whom the church was named, on either side of him. Above and behind him dwells God the Holy Spirit as a dove, and God the father as an aged man bearing a glowing, triangular halo. To the further left, we find Moses holding the Ten Commandments and to the right, John the Baptist.


A beautiful red-bricked facade showcases the St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church, topped with incredibly tall, narrow bell towers reaching towards the sky. These architecturally superb steeples tower over us like a giant as we stand beneath the entrance to this Neo-gothic masterpiece. Built around 1890 as a German Roman Catholic church, it housed (and still houses) one of the largest organs of its kind in the country. Above this organ, the wall is fitted with an alluring rose window filled with captivating color. The church was rebuilt after a fire in1909 with some interesting cement over the red brick. As we journey through time to 1964, we find that famous actress Susan Hayward and her husband were baptized under the apse of this chapel. A multi-colored brick school house resides in the back lot, and atop the floors of that sits a large gymnasium. Parts of the famous movie, “Dogma” were filmed outside the front of this church.


As I peer through these vast halls of elegant abbeys that now sit crumbling, I ask myself this; ‘If you can leave such a holy place to ruin, abandon your God’s home and not even so much as look back at what you have let it fall to…is your religion as strong as you think? Or will you let your faith crumble to pieces as you have with what God had helped you build?’

If you believe, within your faith that God helped you build this place to worship him/her and gave you the knowledge and skill to create such a beautiful temple…then why would you be so quick to let it fall? Throwing away a gift given to you is quite a fucking obnoxious response.

Jer 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

If you live by the words of God, this is what he says to you, and you repay him the way I see a lot of you do…you might want to rethink yourself. If your mother was on her death bed, wrote you one final note telling you how much she has loved you your entire life; that she is proud of you and always believed in you, and you set it on fire…there ya go.

Or is this another way of saying “oh well, we don’t need a temple to worship our God as long as we believe; however, we can build another one so people don’t catch on to that, and we can still take their money.” You can then let that one fall, and continue in this progression until the temples of newer and newer ages become less intricate, and less beautiful. Why are they becoming less beautiful? Because you have begun to not care how beautiful your God’s home is. You don’t care if he or she is comfortable as long as you get your paper. That is obviously not religion, and definitely not how I was taught it growing up. That is greed. But it’s okay, you can sin all you want right? An early Sunday morning of confession, and your conscience is clean. If you have that type of mind frame, in my eyes you are a pathetic individual.

Phil 4:13: I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Other than keep my lords home from falling to pieces. Oh well though, right?

These people that let their God’s home fall to ashes without even giving a shit, are the same righteous, self-proclaimed, intolerant, pig-headed “followers of The Lord” that are against two people loving each other unless it fits their own narrow-minded path of values. Look, not everybody can fit on such a small trail, it gets cramped.

I’m sorry, I guess I just have a hard time speaking religion; almost as hard a time I have trying to understand the language. It’s not that I am against believing in something by any means, I just have some simple morals. If you believe in something you should actually act on it. Don’t bullshit and half-ass your way through life swinging double standards around people’s heads, tying the chicken-wired noose of your beliefs around their necks hoping that they will eventually break. Most people don’t have bones that brittle.

Gen 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

And then let them fall into the sun without giving a shit. Do you see what I did there? If you follow these words, ACT on them.

Prov 3:5: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

This one, I just fucking like for a few reasons. Considering you can shove your views down my throat, I figure I should get a moment to say something as well. It is said that Jesus loved all of his children, right? So why would he discriminate against anybody for anything at all? If story told is true, not saying that I actively follow a religion, because I don’t…however if there is truth to it, just think about this for a minute. Jesus willfully DIED; was brutally murdered and nailed to wood, yet he still loves those who did that to him. The thought that Jesus would have a problem with something as simple as a gay marriage or the men and women fighting for our country is fucking absurd. All you are doing is acting against something you, yourself don’t like. It’s completely fine if you don’t agree with others lifestyle choices or who they were born as, but I believe most of us are taught some values in life such as “if you can’t say something nice, keep it to yourself” or any variation of that, as well as “treat others how you would want to be treated.” Some things, you just need to keep to yourself out of common human courtesy. Have all of the views you want on what you think is wrong, but have some decency.

Heb 13:5: Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Yet in “God’s name” you collect money, and continue to forsake his temples to let them come crashing to earth; classic. If the money isn’t going into the preservation of these chapels, where is it really going? Oh that’s right…out with the old, in with the new once again.


2 thoughts on “Abandoned Abbeys

  1. In the decaying church at San Damiano, St. Francis heard the Lord say to him, “rebuild my church, which you see now is in decay.” Perhaps divine providence provides these structures for that very reason. In seeing these beautiful churches in decay, may we all hear such a call to renewal.


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