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Lublin. Scientists are scanning churches in the US in 3D. They want to preserve the memory of Polish heritage

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Scientists from Lublin are carrying out a project consisting in 3D scanning of American churches erected by Polish immigrants years ago. They started with the temples in Chicago, which are now threatened with liquidation, as residents of formerly working-class neighborhoods move to the suburbs or leave the city. And the temples are empty.

Jackowo and Trinity. These are colloquial names of Chicago districts inhabited for years by the Polish community, which derive from the names of temples: St. Jack and the Church of St. Trinity. As we read on the websites of both parishes, the first temple was erected in the years 1917-21 in the place of an earlier wooden church, and the second – in 1873, after the church of St. Stanislaus Kostka no longer housed the faithful.

The memory of these and others erected in USA representatives of the ECCC Foundation, Lublin University of Technology and the Catholic University of Lublin want to save temples for future generations. As part of the project implemented under the “Science for Society” program of the Ministry of Education and Science, they intend to scan at least 15 churches in 3D technology. Five on each of the three planned trips to the USA.

Participants of the expedition in front of the Basilica of St. Jack in Chicago Marek Milosz

They’ve been to Chicago and Milwaukee

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– I think we can scan more. During the first trip, which lasted from October 9 to October 23 (2023 – ed.), we visited six places. At a glance on the last day of the visit, we managed to scan the church of St. Michał in Chicago – says the leader of the expedition, Professor Marek Miłosz from the Department of Computer Science of the Lublin University of Technology.

In the Basilica of St. Jacek, there are 2,200 seatsMarek Milosz

Together with him, Małgorzata Przewoźniak (project manager, ECCC Foundation), Łukasz Konopa (Catholic University of Lublin) and Dr. Jacek Kęsik, prof. Jerzy Montusiewicz and dr Elżbieta Miłosz from the Lublin University of Technology. In addition to the aforementioned church of St. Michael, in Chicago were also scanned: the Basilica of St. Jacek, Holy Trinity Church, St. Stanisław Kostka and the church of St. Hedwig. Researchers were also at St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr in the nearby city of Milwaukee.

The churches are emptying. Scientists want to “archive Polish heritage in the USA”

– All these temples are threatened with demolition. Poles, who for decades inhabited these, once working-class, districts of the city, have already become rich. So many moved to bigger houses in the suburbs or left Chicago. Some returned to Poland. So naturally, there are fewer and fewer believers in parishes, and huge churches are empty – says prof. Milosz.

Holy Trinity Church in Chicago Marek Milosz

He adds that, for example, in the Basilica of St. Jacek, there are 2,200 seats.

– The parish priest told us that in the 1980s 10 Sunday masses were celebrated here and not all the gathered people managed to sit down, so they had to stand. About 200 people attend Sunday Mass. The Chicago curia has no choice but to unite parishes. In the event that two make one, the faithful use one church, and the other is put up for sale, and the money obtained from the sale is spent by the parishes on maintaining the temples that are still functioning – describes our interlocutor.

Church of St. Hedwig in ChicagoMarek Milosz

– It is precisely in order to archive the current state of these temples that our project is being implemented. We want to archive Polish heritage in the USA and make it public on the Internet. I have the impression that many Poles are not aware of its existence – emphasizes the professor.

A small “box” and millions of points

3D technology is used to scan churches.

Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Chicago Marek Milosz

– It consists in the fact that the rays of the laser scanner – i.e. such a small box – designate millions of points on a given surface. These points form a kind of grid or cloud, thanks to which we get information not only about the spatiality of a given surface, but also about its color. Scanning the interior of one temple takes about six to eight hours. The data is then processed using specialized software. As a result, two 3D object models are created: mesh models and panoramas, such as we see using Google Street View – explains Prof. Milosz.

More expeditions are coming

Church of St. Stanisław Kostka in ChicagoMarek Milosz

The panoramas have already been posted on the project website:polskiedziedzictwo3d.pl. Mesh models will also be available soon.

Read also: They found a sphere that turned out to be a 19th-century time capsule. They opened it up, added modern stuff and put it back in the same place

– We plan to organize the next two expeditions in 2023. After each of them, photographic exhibitions documenting the work carried out will be presented at the Lublin University of Technology. The first exhibition will appear in January – announces the scientist.

Church of St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr in MilwaukeeMarek Milosz

Main photo source: Marek Milosz

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