Baha’i and Mighty – The Baha’i Temple in Wilmette

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This past weekend, I took a small trip to Wilmette, a north suburb of Chicago, to visit a site that’s been on my “Must See” list for a while now: The Baha’i Temple.

For those who don’t know what Baha’i is, I’ll add a bit at the bottom of this that explains the tenants of the religion. But first, photos.

A Sight at Night

I went to the Baha’i Temple at night because Sarah invited a few friends over to the apartment and had a “Girls’ Night”. This is my idea of hell, so I left, exiled to the dark abyss of a late winter’s night.

As I walked down the street, I remembered all of the times that I wanted to go to the Baha’i Temple, but never did. “I’ll do it later”, I’d say. “Maybe next weekend, I’ll go.” At this point, I arrived at the car and knew the time was now. I briskly walked back to the apartment, grabbed my Big Nerdy Camera, and drove the 25 minutes north to Wilmette.

The Baha’i Temple at Night

When most people go to the Baha’i Temple, they go during the day. A quick Google search will show that it’s often photographed surrounded by lush and manicured gardens and Lake Michigan in the background.

At night, I got none of those things. And it’s still hovering around freezing, so the fountains weren’t on. But I like about going places at night because I get to see the lighting. Anyone who has ever worked a theatre production, camera studio, or tried to shoot a video can tell you that lighting isn’t as easy as “Point this light there. K, good.” A good lighting job emphasizes the detail of the building and breathes depth into its character. And the lighting job of the Baha’i Temple does just that.

Baha'i Temple in Wilmette

The way that the temple is lit shows all of the intricate carvings that adorn the exterior walls. It becomes a formidable fortress, a beacon to all who seek it.

Baha'i Temple in Wilmette

. Each of the pillars have a cacophony of religious symbols on them. From the pamphlet comes a Louis Bourgeois quote:

“In the tracery of the towers are intertwined all the religious symbols of the past, demonstrating to each beholder of any religion: welcome to this Temple exemplifying universal brotherhood.”

Baha'i Temple in Wilmette

Inside the Baha’i Temple

Since it was dark and winter, I was finished pretty quickly with my outside pictures. I moved inside. While I expected it to be pretty, I wasn’t expecting this:

Baha'i Temple in Wilmette - Interior

Inside was one large room with a domed-ceiling. At the top is a crest with Arabic writing that reads Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá, an invocation meaning “O Glory of the All Glorious”.

Baha'i Temple in Wilmette - Interior

Now, real talk for a second, if you go to the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette, Illinois, they have a no photo policy inside. It exists as a courtesy to others who are there to pray and find peace. While I’m not a terribly religious person myself, I understand and respect this code.

That said, no one was inside while I was there. I was alone. I was not disturbing anyone, and if someone else had entered, I would have packed my camera away. Eventually, the security guard did enter the temple, and I apologized and told him that I figured it was okay since no one was there. He agreed, and said that people take pictures all the time. 

Just be mindful, if you go. Enjoy the architecture and the atmosphere, but be mindful of those who are trying to be mindful themselves (a tenant of the Baha’i faith). 

Baha'i Temple in Wilmette - Interior

What is Baha’i?

My information is sourced from the handout at the Baha’i Temple as well as their website (link here).

Baha’i is a religion that began in Persia (now Iran) founded by Bahá’u’lláh in the mid-1800s. The Baha’i faith is centered around the belief that all religions are talking about the same god, merely different manifestations of his presence. They all share a similar aim and source. Together, we form one human race that should strive towards peace through the following pillars:

  • Oneness of humanity and dignity of every human being
  • Freedom from prejudice
  • Equality of men and women
  • Spiritual solution to economic problems
  • Commitment to education and the search for truth
  • Highest moral standards
  • Harmony of faith, reason, and science

On the walls of the temple were messages that could double as inspirational posters: messages about being a good person, being virtuous, things like that.

Baha'i Temple in Wilmette - Interior

Not only did I think the temple was beautiful, I found the messages of acceptance and unity to be soothing, especially in a bitterly divided world. I’ve always had a soft spot for Eastern religions that focus more on the self than worshipping a god. I think self-awareness and understanding could do us all some good, but that’s a conversation to be had over drinks with friends, not the public at-large.

If you want some peace in your travels, I’d recommend swinging by.

If you want to read more…

This blog is shared as part of a few linkups. If you’re interested in reading what other travelers have to say, click on the icons below.

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  1. This is so beautiful – the carvings are so delicate, so intricate, it looks like lace or ivory. It’s particularly impressive at night. I had no idea this was in Chicago. Thanks so much for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  2. Simply beautiful! I had visited the Baha’i Temple in Delhi, India – it’s also called the Lotus Temple because the architecture of the temple looks like a lotus flower. I enjoyed my time – it’s so peaceful. Glad that you visited the one in Chicago – it must have been an incredible experience 🙂 #FarawayFiles

    1. Author

      And now I have another reason to go to India.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I have one word only – WOW!!!!!! I thought deep pan pizza was the only reason for going to Chicago, but now I have another – thanks 🙂 Shared on StumbleUpon. #theweeklypostcard

  4. I am quite familiar with this place as I went to college in Chicago. Wilmette is an upsacle quiet suburb just a bit north of Chicago along Lake Michigan. It’s nice in the summer to walk around the Baha’i Temple vicinity in the early evening when its lighting really makes it stand out. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  5. Oh wow what a beautiful temple! I’ve ever heard of it but will have to check it out if we visit Chicago this summer! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  6. Beautiful, does not look like something I would expect to see in Chicago or really anywhere in the US. I had not heard of the Bahai religion before so it was interesting learning more about it. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  7. Wow, what a beautiful temple. I love the intricacies. One of my students has joined the Baha’i faith community in his college town, but I didn’t know anything about it, so I appreciate a basic understanding of the spiritual tenants of it! Thanks for sharing! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  8. What a beautiful temple! It is much more adorned and architecturally interesting than our local Baha’i Temple, which looks more like a big box with a dome stuck on top. :/ To each their own, I suppose. We drive past it often, but don’t know much about the faith – thanks for the introductory lesson! And thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

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