Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


St. Mary's Chapel

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Institution Name: Mercyhurst College
Original/Historic Place Name: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Chapel
Location on Campus: 16 W. Division St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1901-1902original construction Hansing & Beierl
Designer: Hansing & Beierl (Buffalo, NY)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Gothic revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone
Walls: stone
Roof: copper sheeting
1902-present (2006)chapel

First and foremost, St. Mary's Chapel is a beautiful place, a classic design that is rich in tradition. It was built as the student chapel for the seminarians at St. Mary's Seminary, affiliated with the Society of the Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). It was designed by the firm of Hansing and Beierl of Buffalo, NY, and built by Thomas Reilly of Philadelphia, PA. Construction began May 1, 1901, and the dedication to Our Lady of Perpetual Help took place on Sept. 4, 1902.

The Chapel's magnificent sanctuary has five marble altars and sweeping arches. The main altar occupies the entire central portion of the apse and is surrounded by four onyx pillars. The main altar is, in the estimation of all, the work of a mastermind. The altars were made by Peter Theis' Sons of New York City. Below the altar is a three-dimensional plaster reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper." On either side of the main altar are two smaller altars--Our Lady of Perpetual Help and The Mother of Sorrows-as well as the altars of St. Alphonsus, the Pieta, and the Death of St. Joseph. Stained glass windows were made by Mayer of Munich, Germany and imported from Austria.

Although its official name remains the Chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, it is most often referred to as St. Mary's Chapel. As enrollment grew in the 1920s and 1930s, seating capacity in the chapel needed to be expanded as well. During that time, "canoes" or "Gondolas" were placed down each of the side aisles and are still used as demand requires. A disastrous fire at the seminary in 1977 did not harm the chapel, thanks to sturdy fire doors.

Mercyhurst College purchased the seminary from the Redemptorist Fathers in 1991. It remains in use as a college chapel today, largely unchanged from the way it looked 70 years ago.


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Last update: November 2006