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Magnificent chapel dedicated in 1933

chapel closeup


Though not completely finished at the time of the Sisters of Providence move into their new Providence Mother House in 1932, the Sisters’ magnificent Byzantine-style Our Mother of Sorrows Chapel was ready for dedication ceremonies by February 22, 1933. The late Bishop Thomas O’Leary officiated saying, in part “This beautiful chapel will be the [Sisters’] greatest luxury and greatest necessity.”

Records indicate there were 30 or so contractor businesses involved in erecting the building which is estimated to have cost more than one million dollars. In the chapel, these included D’Ascenzo Studios, charged with the chapel’s decoration; Wilbur Herbert Burnham, the stained glass windows; Joseph Sibbell Studios, the Stations of the Cross; and Providence Steel Works, the sanctuary’s iron grilles. One hundred thirty-five feet long, 50’ wide and 60’ high, the chapel comfortably seats 375. It has tooled cast stone columns and arches, and its side aisle walls feature rouge antique marble panels with 10’ high wainscoting.

chapel wide view

The sanctuary altar is Italian marble set beneath an eye-catching baldacchino of Venetian mosaic. Four life-size marble angels, each with an emblem of an Evangelist, are positioned at the pinnacle of the dome’s four supporting columns. Together, altar, angel statues, baldacchino, and columns weigh 56 tons.

Sister Mary Adrianella, an SP since 1943, remembers learning that the baldacchino has three separate sections fitted together “like a jigsaw puzzle.” She noted, too, “Because the baldacchino and columns weigh so much, they had to be rolled down the chapel’s aisle in pieces before being fitted together.”

The artwork on the ceiling semi-dome depicts Mary’s coronation as Queen of Heaven, and on the sanctuary’s soffit is the Latin inscription, “Behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”

Wrought iron grilles marked with symbols of Christ’s passion set the backdrop for the chapel’s high altar, and additional grilles frame the upstairs “jubes,” or “galleries,” seating areas. The sanctuary includes side altars dedicated to Mary and Joseph.

All statuary in the chapel is sculpted in Carrara marble.

Other chapel highlights include: a barrel vaulted ceiling; a splendid Rose Window; striking stained glass windows; two shrines; and a Skinner 1,647-pipe organ, that is one of the only two of its type in the U.S.

Looking back to the chapel’s 1933 dedication ceremony, Bishop O’Leary’s words have proved to be prophetic; it remains—“the Sisters’ greatest luxury and greatest necessity”—a place set aside for prayer and reflection, a place they now share with residents of Providence Place.

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