Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Wartburg Chapel

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Institution Name: Wartburg College
Original/Historic Place Name: Wartburg Chapel
Location on Campus: southeast corner of campus
Date(s) of Construction:
1994original construction Weese Langley Weese
Designer: Weese Langley Weese
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Contemporary (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: Anamosa limestone used extensively
Roof: concrete shingles
ca. 1994-present (2006)chapel (provides an inspiring center for worship, offices for the campus pastors, and programming and office space for campus ministry programs)

Built in 1994, Wartburg Chapel architecturally integrates the college's German heritage and its Iowa roots with a series of commemorative features. German heritage is honored by the inscription on the west exterior wall, which reads: "Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott" (A Mighty Fortress is Our God). The Pool of Remembrance, signifying the college's relation to the wider community, is filled with more than 300 stones sent by congregations and institutions from across the United States and around the world. The college's individual history is featured on the west arcade, where the names of persons, places, and associations that have played a significant role in the history of the college are etched into the Anamosa limestone.

The entrance to the building is through the Zimmerman Tower, which is topped by twin 40-foot copper spires joined by a 10-foot stainless steel cross. In the Tower are three bronze bells cast at the Piccard-Fonderie De Cloches in Annency, France. The largest bell weighs 888 pounds; the others weigh 435 and 347 pounds. European-style lights illuminate the clock numerals and hands.

Located at the center of the courtyard in front of the chapel is "Dancing St. Francis," a bronze sculpture by Paul Granlund. Inspired by St. Francis' "Canticle of Brother Sun," Granlund depicts St. Francis singing, dancing, praising God for the universe, and trying to embrace it all. St. Francis has historical connections to Wartburg through St. Elizabeth and Martin Luther, who both lived at the Wartburg Castle.

The building won an Award of Excellence in the 1994 Construction Awards Competition sponsored by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Iowa, and was also featured in the April 1996 edition of Iowa Architect magazine, which noted that "the architects purposely reinterpret the traditions of ecclesiastical architecture. Their poised addition to this quiet Iowa campus stands as a telling demonstration of the reflective relationship between the conventional and the innovative."

Second-floor skywalks connecting the chapel to the Fine Arts Center and the Classroom Technology Center were completed in 1995 during construction of the Classroom Technology Center.


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Last update: November 2006