Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Maria Angelorum Chapel

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Institution Name: Viterbo University
Original/Historic Place Name: Maria Angelorum Chapel
Location on Campus: Main entrance on Winnebago
Date(s) of Construction:
1901-1906original construction Liebert, Eugene R.
Designer: Eugene R. Liebert
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Romanesque revival (Glossary)
Significance: culture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: brick on concrete footings, limestone blocks used on lower six feet of fa├žade
Walls: brick
Roof: clay tile
1906-present (2006)chapel (place of worship for the student body, the community, and students of St. Rose Normal School)
ca. 2004-present (2006)auditorium (site of Commencement exercises, orientation programs, music concerts)

Partially adapted from the pamphlet, "The Chapels of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration":

The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, the first community of the Third Order Franciscan women in the United States, was founded in 1849. From a small band of Bavarian German immigrants, the order developed into a flourishing religious community, which in 1870 built the St. Rose Convent. Twenty years later, in 1890, they established St. Rose Normal School, the forerunner of Viterbo University.

In 1906 the Mary of the Angels (Maria Angelorum) and Perpetual Adoration Chapels of St. Rose Convent were completed. Designed by Eugene R. Liebert, the Chapels resemble Romanesque basilicas common in Europe from the seventh to the twelfth centuries. The shape is that of a Latin cross with the nave, transepts, sanctuary, and apse completely surrounded by two-storied side aisles. The lofty vaultings, numerous arches, and massive columns, though constructed of plaster and concrete, have been finished to resemble Norwegian marble. More than 160 angels are depicted throughout the chapel. These winged attendants are found wreathed into the capitals of columns, adorning the bases of the transept galleries, below the Stations of the Cross, in the windows of the nave and in the various paintings. Two angels placed at entrances to the chapel welcome all who enter. Rich in symbolism, unity and detail, the Chapel is a prime example of the strong emphasis on the fine arts at Viterbo University, a value which stems from its founders.

In the apse is the Chapel of Perpetual Adoration, which holds the Blessed Sacrament. Round-the-clock since 1878, at least two people have held vigil and prayed before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament, upholding a promise made in 1865 by one of the leaders of the order to establish perpetual adoration. The founding order, which grew to over 1,000 members, became known and recognized for its contribution to education at all levels and to health care in hospitals and clinics in the United States and worldwide. Today, the culture is Franciscan, Catholic, ecumenical and inter-racial; many of those in attendance are first-generation college students.

The Chapel is significant and meaningful because it embodies the mission and vision of the Franciscan founders and sponsors of Viterbo University. As time advances, it is important that the administration, faculty, students, and employees of the university be as fully immersed in the origins and continuance of its original mission as possible. Apart from exhibits and archival records, the Chapel itself provides a tangible reminder of the heritage upon which the mission of Viterbo University rests.

In recognition of the Chapel's historic position and preservation, the La Crosse Area Society for Historic Preservation, Inc. presented a "Heritage Award" in 1981. A plaque which adorns a wall in the entrance reads: "In appreciation for exceptional contributions and effort in the recognition, preservation, and use of the La Crosse Area's Historical and Architectural Heritage." It has been kept in excellent condition, undergoing complete restoration to its original state in 1992, and hence receiving repair and renovation as needed. This includes the exterior as well as interior paintings, mosaics, ceiling patterns, and stained glass windows.


"A Rich Heritage, A Bright Future." Video. Viterbo University, La Crosse, WI, 1998.

"The Chapels of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration." Pamphlet. La Crosse, WI: The Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, 1998.


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Last update: November 2006