Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Sacred Heart Chapel

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Institution Name: Marygrove College
Original/Historic Place Name: Sacred Heart Chapel
Location on Campus: center of Liberal Arts Building
Date(s) of Construction:
1925-1927original construction (stained glass windows by Daprato Statuary Company, New York) Bohlen, Oscar D. D. A. Bohlen & Son Daprato Statuary Company
Designer: Oscar D. Bohlen; D. A. Bohlen & Son (Indianapolis, IN); Daprato Statuary Company (New York)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Gothic revival, Other (Glossary)
Significance: culture, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete piling
Walls: solid masonry faced on all exterior surfaces with Indiana Olithic Limestone
Roof: Vermont slate
1927-present (2006)chapel
2004-present (2006)auditorium

Sacred Heart Chapel is finished with a groined English oak ceiling. Tavernelle Rose Marble provides the wainscoting in the sanctuary; San Benito Texas Marble is used in the nave wainscoting. The carved pews are of black walnut, the ornately carved Gothic-style Confessionals of oak. The bronze ventilation grilles are in a quatrefoil pattern. Originally, brass gates and a marble communion rail separated the sanctuary from the nave.

The altars for the Marygrove College chapels were designed by the architect of the College, Oscar D. Bohlen of Indianapolis. They were executed by the Daprato Statuary Company in their Pietrasanta Studios, Italy. In the 1927 Souvenir Volume from the dedication of Marygrove College, Mr. Bohlen wrote:

The main altar resembles the facade of a Gothic Cathedral in miniature, with its traceried sides and clustered pillars and wealth of ornament. It is considered one of the finest examples of pure Gothic. The reredos is made of Bianco Prima Italian Carrara marble pillars of varying heights, carved and ornamented and enclosing numerous panels of Paonazzo with their delicate veining and rich color. The snowy Carrara lends itself to the most exquisite carving in true Gothic forms, both in conventional and naturalistic designs. Austere geometric figures, ornate quatrefoils, greca gotica patterns, and grape and vine clusters in high relief, all worked out with great refinement of detail, succeed one another in endless variety and beauty.

The art glass windows at Marygrove were provided by the Daprato Statuary Company, Chicago, through their New York studio and were designed, at least in part, by Oscar D. Bohlen. However, two of the windows in Sacred Heart Chapel are signed "Bavaria Art Glass Studios, Mpls., Minn." While scholars of stained glass in the United States have speculated that Bavaria Art Glass Studios was actually a representative for two renowned stained glass firms, Franz Mayer and F. X. Zettler, both of Munich, the Minnesota Historical Society can find no record of Bavaria Art Glass Studios existing in Minneapolis. Scholars also speculate that Daprato was an official U.S. installer of Mayer and Zettler stained glass and perhaps subcontracted the job to one of the two firms. To date, there is no definitive evidence to confirm that the Marygrove windows were subcontracted to either Mayer of Munich or F.X. Zettler. At present it can only be said that the windows were drawn by Daprato Statuary Company and signed by Bavaria Art Glass Studios.

The twelve three-lancet windows in Sacred Heart Chapel are in the European pictorial tradition, representing Scriptural scenes, saints, or devotions. Landscapes and rich flora and fauna appear in the backgrounds of the scenes depicted. The canopies and the portion below all three lancets represent Gothic architectural designs that echo the main altar. Gothic-style stone tracery, consistent with the chapel's overall design, divides the top portion of the windows into five sections, each of a rich ornamental design. Each window is also inscribed with a Latin phrase pertinent to the subject depicted. Ten of the windows are eight feet wide by twenty-three feet tall; two windows at the front are eight feet by eighteen feet. The original quoted price of the twelve windows was $22,370.00.

The organ in the Madame Cadillac Chapel was built in 1927-1928 by Casavant Freres of St. Hyacinthe, Province of Quebec, Canada at a cost of $26,840. Specifications were prepared "by Mr. Casavant himself," i.e, by Claver Casavant, one of two brothers who succeeded their father, Joseph, the first Canadian organ builder of note. Both Claver and Samuel Casavant studied under the great French organ builder Cavaille-Coll. The instrument that firmly established Casavant Freres as organ builders of international repute was completed in 1891 for the Church of Notre-Dame in Montreal, a four manual organ of eighty-two stops.

The Marygrove instrument is an oak-encased, three-manual (Swell, Great, and Choir), full pedal, 39-stop organ. It is characterized by a late nineteenth century English-French Romantic sound that contrasts with the orchestral sound of many German organs built in the early twentieth century. Because France was largely unaffected by the orchestral movement, the French-trained Casavant Brothers built instruments that added to a line of development rather than revolutioned the instrument.

J.A. Hebert, of J.A. Hebert Organ Associates, the official Casavant Freres representative in Detroit, personally directed the installation of the organ, a process that took six weeks. Pietro Yon, organist for St. Frances Xavier Church in New York City as well as a private teacher with an organ studio in Carnegie Hall, played the dedication concert on May 24, 1928.

The stained glass windows were removed and cleaned and exterior protection installed in 2002. The Casavant organ underwent a major cleaning in 1985 under the direction of the late Samuel Koontz; installation of new inter- and intra-manual couplers occurred in 1991; and extensive renovation of the entire instrument and installation of new technology by Renaissance Pipe Organ Company of Ann Arbor, MI took place in 2002. The original altar candlesticks have been re-gilded. The altar rail, brass sanctuary gates, and sanctuary lamp were removed in the liturgical renewal of the 1970s, but all other features of the chapel remain as they were in 1927. All are in good condition, including the original chandeliers.

Sacred Heart Chapel takes up the center wing of the E-shaped Liberal Arts Building, the anchor building in the campus plan. The main campus stone arch on West McNichols Road opens onto a pathway that circles the statue of Our Lady of Marygrove (a 9' marble statue on a 50 foot solid stone shaft), then leads directly to the front entrance of the Liberal Arts Building and into Sacred Heart Chapel, which is situated precisely at the center of a space named not after a benefactor or saint, but after the College's primary intellectual mission: the Liberal Arts. The placement of the chapel signifies an IHM educational philosophy that in 1927 saw faith and spirituality as central to the Catholic teaching tradition.

The chapel is a lovely example of Gothic Revival architecture, not only in the design of its stained glass windows and Casavant organ, but in its embrace of the Gothic tradition of pictorial instruction. The Gothic pointed arch motif is repeated in the main altar, the stone lattice work of the windows, the hardware, the design of the entrance doors, and the Confessionals. Variations of the Gothic quatrefoil and trefoil are found throughout the chapel, as are the French fleur-de-lis, symbolic of purity and of Mary, and the quatrefoil rose pattern, recalling Mary as the rose without thorns.

Historically, when Marygrove's student population was predominantly traditionally-aged Catholic women, Sacred Heart Chapel served as the site of daily Mass, student retreats, Catholic devotions, and various ceremonies surrounding commencement. From the 1970s until the Marygrove College Theatre was restored in 2002, events that annually punctuated the academic year took place in the chapel: the welcome of new students, the Martin Luther King Memorial, Honors Convocation, Baccalaureate, concerts, and lectures. With many of those activities now returned to the Theatre, Sacred Heart Chapel remains the site of traditional liturgical events like the Opening Mass of the Holy Spirit, the Baccalaureate, choral concerts, organ recitals, handbell workshops, sacred music conferences, and prayer vigils in time of war and crisis. In other words, it remains the center of the College's public faith life, even as it serves a student population that is no longer predominantly Catholic.


Johns, Barbara, comp. A Brief History and Architectural Guide. Detroit, MI: Marygrove College, 2002.

Master Plan. 2001. Marygrove College, Detroit, MI.

Rosalita, Sr. M. No Greater Service: The History of the Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Monroe, Michigan, 1845-1945. Detroit, MI: Marygrove College, 1948.

Souvenir Volume [Dedication of Marygrove College]. Marygrove College, Detroit, MI, November 10, 1927.


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