Cathedral of Christ the King
Modernism Meets Religious Symbolism
Popularly known as ‘The Castle’, the Diocese of Western Michigan Episcopal Church voted to build the imposing structure at its spring convention in 1965. The diocese’s goal was to locate the property near the crossing of highways Interstate-94 and US-131, halfway between Chicago and Detroit. The thirty-acre site that was eventually settled upon is at 2600 Vincent Drive in Portage, Michigan, just south of the Hill N’ Brook Neighborhood and east of Angling Road Elementary School. Construction was begun in 1967, with church doors opening to worshipers on October 26th, 1969. The cost of the construction was $2 million.
The Chicago architecture firm of Irving W. Colburn and Associates was chosen to develop the eye-catching design. Comprised of unpretentious, geometric shapes (square, rectangle, circle), the building evokes the brutalist work of famed architect, Louis Kahn. Cool and austere, the exterior of the building is centered by a cube, surrounded by 16 rectangular piers that surpass the height of the cube, eliciting the look of a leggo-made medieval castle. A bell tower rests top of one of the protruding columns on the eastside of the church. The interior’s square sanctuary is embodied by a circular altar and concentric seating. Stained glass situated along the Spartan walls adds color and light to the interior while the unique structure of the building adds a bit of individuality to the acoustics. In 1993, writing for the Kalamazoo Gazette, art critic Roger Green explored the church’s unique blending of modern aesthetics with ancient symbolism, stating “Expressing traditional ideas in a modern idiom, the Cathedral of Christ the King bridges the gaps between the spiritual and the corporeal, the public and private, the present and past. An architectural landmark, the cathedral is also an epic poem.” The then-Bishop Charles E. Bennison worked with Colburn’s firm to ensure that the church’s design met both spiritual and practical needs.
“The church complex consists of the church space, a three-hundred-seat undercroft, administrative offices, classrooms, a library, and conference rooms.”–Kathryn Bishop Eckert
In 2004, a plan to move the administrative offices of the diocese was agreed upon. Due to dwindling funds and a lack of support from members, the church was sold for $1.275 million in 2007 to Kalamazoo Valley Family Church.
“The circle in the square, repeated in many variations until it becomes a symphony of form, texture and color.”–The Cathedral brochure, c.1969
Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, February 2022. Last updated 5 April 2022.
Kalamazoo Gazette, 3 February 2007, page D1, column 1.
“Episcopal Cathedral Sold”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 30 April 2007, page A1, column 1.
“Art Critic Gives View of Episcopal Cathedral”
Kalamazoo Gazette, 18 August 18 1993, page B4, column 3.
Buildings of Michigan, Kathryn Bishop Eckert, (H 720.9774 E19U)
The sacred castle: The Cathedral of Christ the King, Kalamazoo, Michigan (H 726.609774 S123)
Local History Room Files
Subject Files: Cathedral Church of Christ the King (includes “The Cathedral”)