Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Cunningham Memorial Chapel

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Institution Name: Notre Dame de Namur University
Original/Historic Place Name: College of Notre Dame Chapel
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1961-1962original construction Raney, Vincent
Designer: Vincent Raney
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Modern/post-WWII (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete and steel
Walls: concrete and stone
Roof: tar and gravel
1962-present (2006)auditorium
1962-present (2006)chapel (religious services daily, convocations, and lectures)

In 1961, the ground was broken for the chapel of the then College of Notre Dame. As a Catholic College, the chapel became the spiritual center for the campus. Students were initiated into the college officially with a ceremony each Fall, the Baccalaureate Mass was celebrated before graduation there, and religious services were performed daily in the chapel. The Chapel was officially named the Cunningham Memorial Chapel in 1985 after the death of Sr. Catharine Julie Cunningham, SNDdeN, who had been President of the college for 24 years.

The chapel's stone and concrete walls were poured horizontally and then set in place by machinery. This kind of architecture was popular in the 50'-'60's. The windows were executed by Gabiele Loire of Chartres, France. They are composed of sculptured glass and exhibit the "Chartre blue" magnificently. Since the college was a women's college when it was built, the chapel's theme is "woman," reflected in the windows that depict scenes from the life of Mary and women of the Old Testament. The artist, Loire, is considered to be one of the greatest window-makers of the 20th century. The Gabriel Loire windows are magnificent examples of the art of the 20th century.

The Stations of the Cross are an original design of one of the Sisters and are made of colored tiles/glass. Behind the Corpus of the Cross over the main altar, the Celtic cross design is embodied in the stone and was part of a ceremony of faculty and students who placed stones in the wall while it was being formed.

The Cunningham Memorial Chapel is located between the library and the gymnasium, which signifies the "mind, body and soul" of the students who are being educated on the campus. The campanile in front of the chapel can be seen from almost any part of the campus. Its bells mark the hour and remind everyone of the spiritual nature of the mission of the University.


Selected papers. Building documentation. Office of the Vice President of Administration, Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont, CA.

Selected photographs. Cunningham Memorial Chapel. Archives, Notre Dame de Namur University, Belmont, CA.


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Last update: November 2006