The Story of St Stephens on The Hill
Why “St Stephens “?
Saint Stephen the Great was the Patron Saint of the Hungarians and of stone masons (very appropriate for the site). St. Stephens the Great (977-1038), a strong defender of the Christian faith and proponent of the rights of the “Holy See”, was anointed king of Hungary in the year 1,000. St. Stephen was canonized in 1083 by Pope St. Gregory VII and at that time became the official patron saint of Hungary.
Joseph and Erzabet Bartok (the land owner’s grandparents) were Hungarian immigrants who traveled to the United States aboard the RMS Carpathia (the ship that came to the aid of the Titanic). They soon set foot on Ellis Island in New York in 1906 to begin a “new life” in this “new world”. In 1937 Joseph and Erzabet purchased the farm where “St Stephen’s on The Hill” now sits. As a tribute to the owner’s grandparents, the Chapel was given its’ name.
The entrance of the chapel is constructed of Bedford stone which originated from the Van Cleve building built from 1908 to 1910 in Eldorado, Illinois as the first permanent structure of the Eldorado Township High School. When the high school was demolished in 2001, the stone and brick made its way to this location where they laid idle until April 2011. At that time, the land’s owner had vision for the use of the materials and began construction of an outdoor chapel for the upcoming wedding ceremony of his daughter.
He began the task of laying each individual piece of brick and stone, not really conscious of what the end result would be. One thing that he did know was that he wanted to utilize reclaimed, vintage items to make the venue very unique and special. The timber frame at the entrance of the chapel is from the Harry Devillez “Lamkin Farm” south of Wasson, Illinois. The slate shingles are from the St. Joseph church in Ridgway, Illinois. St. Joseph’s church was built in the late 1800’s and was considered “The Little Cathedral” of Southern Illinois. Sadly the church was destroyed in the leap day tornado of 2012. The cast iron lamp posts were salvaged from St. Louis, Missouri where they were manufactured in 1870 by Banner Iron Works. St. Ann’s shrine in St. Louis Missouri was the home of the light that hangs in the arched entrance of the chapel and was manufactured by the Guth Lighting Company of St. Louis Mo. The stained glassed window depicting St Stephens the Great originated from St. Ladislaus, a Hungarian Catholic Church in Hazleton, PA.
On May 12, 2012, a very proud father walked his beautiful daughter down the isle of St Stephens. The vision became reality and the magic continues today.