Sacred Heart Catholic Church

LOCATION:  509 North Florida Avenue, Tampa, FL 33602

CLIENT:  Fr. William Tyrrell, S.J / The Jesuits

ARCHITECT:  Nicholas J. Clayton

BUILT:  1900 – 1905


PHOTO CREDITS:  Larry Syverson, Flickr

Sacred Heart Church is a Roman Catholic church originally commissioned by the Jesuits.  In 1897, pastor William Tyrrell announced that a new church would be built. Ground was broken on February 16, 1898.  The beautiful new Romanesque style church was dedicated on January 15, 1905.  It cost $300,000 to design and build.

The architect for the new Sacred Heart Church was Nicholas J. Clayton of Galveston, TX.  Clayton designed many Roman Catholic Churches in Texas and throughout the southern United States.

The granite and marble structure includes a 135 foot dome, solid oak pews and doors, porcelain tiles, and a Carrara marble altar. Its 70 stained glass windows are truly remarkable.  They were designed by a single artist and manufactured by Franz Mayer & Co. of Munich, Germany.  This company was designated a “Pontifical Institute of Christian Art” by Pope Leo 13th in 1892.

Take time to look closely at the windows.  They are drawn in Renaissance single-point perspective.  Rendered in rich colors that artistically and symbolically enhance the content of each window scene.  Many of the major windows tell a story.

The Resurrection Window on the left side of the transept (the part of the church representing the arms of the cross) is a triptych, with three panels. Like the other major windows at Sacred Heart, it tells a story.

The center panel presents the risen Christ, triumphant over death. He floats over the tomb, carrying a heavenly banner, his right hand raised in a benediction. An angel alights beneath him, gazing at the stunned soldiers who guarded his tomb.

The two smaller panels record incidents preceding this apotheosis, one of the Virgin Mary in blue, with Mary Magdalene and Martha approaching the tomb, and the other of two soldiers fleeing as it opens.

Today the building looks strikingly similar to the original. It’s renovations by local architecture firm Rowe Architects in 2004 were awarded an AIA Tampa Bay Award for Design Excellence.


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