Did you know that today is the commemoration for Ambrose of Milan, Pastor and Hymnwriter? The timing for our visit to The Hill was quite felicitous in that regard! Ambrose was one of the four great Latin Doctors of the Church, (the others being Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great), and writer of my favorite Advent hymn, “Savior of the Nations Come.” The Catholic church on The Hill was obviously named in his honor.
As part of “Christmas on The Hill” this year, we took a tour of The Hill. And by tour, I mean we went to the church, St Ambrose Catholic Church, and the bocce club. You know, the two most important places in the neighborhood.
I found learning about the history of the church, and by extension, the neighborhood, to be fascinating.
The current church building, which is absolutely beautiful, was built in the early 1920s, after the original wooden church building burned down. (Why the church burned is up for some debate–it was either the result of a unsupervised candle burning out of control when a priest fell asleep reading, or the explosion of a still. The latter story is much more interesting, in my opinion, so I’m going with that one!) The pillars in the church are buried 40 feet in the ground for support, which is amazing to me.
We learned that it took only four years to build, which I think is astounding given the time at which it was built, and cost $285,000. They had the whole project paid off in 10 years, (also astounding!), and raised money for it in a variety of ways, including having children pay for the bricks used at a cost of 10 cents each. There were improvements done to the church in the 60s, following Vatican II, including the addition of a new, very grand, altar.
The church has been, and still is, the center of the community. It was clear, even in our brief time there, that it is still a gathering place–people were meeting on the church steps and talking, the salamites were distributed in the parking lot, and the crowning event of the day was an evening Christmas concert at the church, (which I hope to attend one of these years).