Restoring the St. Joseph Altar Celebrating the Year of St. Joseph

“I wish I could persuade everyone to be devoted to this glorious saint (St. Joseph), for I have great experience of the blessings that he can obtain from God. I have never known anyone to be truly devoted to him and render him particular services who did not notably advance in virtue, for he gives very real help to souls who commend themselves to him.” St. Theresa of Avila.

As we celebrate the Year of St. Joseph, we are restoring St. Joseph’s altar as an offering and a prayer for the Church. Seeking the intercession of this mighty Saint, we wish to repair and regild, in 24k gold leaf, this altar to match our magnificently restored High Altar.

Help Us Honor St. Joseph

We are inviting friends of St. Joseph to make an offering and a prayer intention to St. Joseph. All prayer intentions will be placed in the restored altar when it is completed.

The St. Joseph Altar is in dire need of repair and restoration. The altar’s stability is compromised by deep vertical cracks including cracks in the altar’s base. Much of the carved wood-and-gilded ornamentation is either discolored, damaged, or missing and the entire surface of the altar needs to be cleaned.

The St. Joseph Altar is used not only as an altar for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but it also supports an elaborate and heavy Christmas Creche, the Holy Thursday repository, the Good Friday tomb, and the Resurrection tableau throughout Eastertide. The extraordinary use, in addition to the normal depredations of time and circumstance, have contributed to the altar’s need for repair and restoration.

The repair and restoration of the St. Joseph Altar will be accomplished in three phases from May 1, 2021 to February 2, 2022. We begin on the Feast of St. Joseph (May 1) the Worker and we will dedicate the finished project on the Feast of Candlemas (Feb 2), which is a period of nine months.

The project cost is estimated to be $248,000.00. The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius have made an offering to St. Joseph of $25,000, 10% of the total project cost. Join them in this work of the Restoration of the Sacred. This project cannot be completed without your help.

WE INVITE YOU to make an offering with your prayer intention to St. Joseph:

  1. Donate Online now or send in a donation by mail.

  2. Submit your prayer intention online or include it it with your check

All submitted intentions will be permanently placed in the restored altar where Mass will be celebrated.

We are also seeking leadership gifts from individuals who can assist the Canons Regular in this project. If you are interested in making an offering above $5000, please contact Father Joshua Caswell, SJC at or call the office at 312.243.7373.

Please make checks payable to the “AMDG Foundation” with, "St. Joseph Altar" in the memo line.

Mail checks and prayer intentions to:

St. Joseph’s Altar

AMDG Foundation

1025 W. Fry Street

Chicago, IL 60642

Download a prayer intention form below.

StJoseph_For website
Download PDF • 579KB

Project Details

May 1, 2021: Saturday, 8:30am

Special Mass offered at St. Joseph Altar to begin the project.

May 3, 2021: Monday, Project begins:

Phase I (on site)

1. The scaffolding will be erected for 3-4 months to allow removing all the ornaments and other decorative elements of the altar which are removable.

2. The surface and details of the altar will be photographed to document the condition before conservation.

3. The surface of the wooden altar will be cleaned.

4. The removable ornaments and other movable decorative and gilded elements will be dismantled from the altar and transported to the studio in Oak Park, Illinois.

5. The cracks of the altar will be strengthened with adhered from the verso wooden boards of the same type as the original, and then filled with an appropriate material.

6. The gilded frames of the paintings, moldings, decorative squares, capitals, bases, columns, pinnacles will be sanded, consolidated, covered with gesso, and gilded following the original technique used on the high altar.

7. All the discolorations of the altar’s surface will be retouched; a color balance should be obtained.

8. The two paintings will be restored.

9. The scaffolding will be removed.

Phase II (at the studio)

1. The wooden ornaments will be be cleaned. The old gesso will be removed. The wooden ornaments will be consolidated to strengthen their structure.

2. The missing fragments of the ornaments will be reconstructed in the original type of wood.

3. The small losses and cracks will be filled with an appropriate material.

4. The surface of the wooden ornaments will be covered with multiple layers of gesso and clay, then gilded with 24 K gold leaves to obtain a matte and burnished surface. The matte surface will then be protected with a transparent coating.

5. All the decorative elements will be restored and regilded.

6. Scaffolding will be erected for one week.

7. The ornaments and decorative elements will be re-adhered to the altar.

8. The scaffolding will be removed.

February 2, 2022 - Wednesday, 7:30 PM

Dedication and blessing of the Altar

Details of the Restoration

Three people will work on this labor-intensive project for nine months. Most of the cost of the restoration is labor.

The first stage will take 3-4 months of work on site 5 days per week. During this time the following parts of the altar will be restored and the following treatments will be performed:

  • Documentation

  • Removal of ornaments

  • Structure strengthening, cracks, cleaning altar’s surface, retouching discolorations, refreshing the finish.

  • Gilding (including the removal of old layers)

  • Upper frame with book

  • 151 squares

  • Upper moldings

  • 2 large column capitals

  • 4 central column capitals

  • 4 central column bases

  • 4 central column grooves

  • 2 elements from large column bases

  • 4 small columns (predella)

  • 4 small capitals (predella)

  • 3 frames (predella)

  • 19 frames

  • Central and lower moldings

  • Lower cross with the “dome”

  • Conservation of the 2 paintings

The second stage. The next 5 months will be devoted to work on the restoration of movable elements at the studio. During this time the following elements will be gilded (including reconstructions):

  • 6 pinnacles

  • Upper cross with rays

  • Garlands from the upper frame

  • 12 garlands from the upper part of the altar

  • 16 flowers with ribbons

  • 23 large ornament compositions

  • 2 wreaths

  • Large frame (of the large painting) plus 2 ornaments


(312) 243-7373

825 N. Carpenter St

Chicago, IL 60642

© 2021 St. John Cantius Church