Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Main Chapel

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Institution Name: Chestnut Hill College
Original/Historic Place Name: Chapel of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart
Location on Campus: adjacent to Mount Saint Joseph Convent
Date(s) of Construction:
1884-1891original construction Durang, F. Ferdinand
Designer: E. F. Ferdinand Durang (Philadelphia)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Gothic revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Walls: Holmsburg granite
ca. 1891-present (2006)chapel

The Chapel at Mount Saint Joseph was begun in 1884, but lack of funds delayed the project until 1891. It was built in a neo-Gothic style, with vaulting, pillars, and pointed arches. The stained glass windows represent the life of St. Joseph and are unique in their theme. The designer was Lamprecht, and Morgan Brothers of New York were the manufacturers. Originally, there were also stained glass windows in the apse of St. Francis de Sales and St. Patrick; but they were closed and the vaults around the main altar were painted with scenes from the life of Christ, done by Sister St. Luke Kelly. The main altar is designed with Gothic spires, which are repeated in the stained glass windows. The sanctuary is paved in Italian marble, with the altar rail of Mexican onyx. The altar is made of Italian marble, with pink Numidian marble pillars on the altars and in the sanctuary.

In 1955, the interior of the Chapel was redone according to the design of Sister Mary Julia Daly, professor of art history, who modeled it after the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Joseph Fraser, Church Artist, of Philadelphia, executed the designs. The ceiling is painted in bright blue, with stars made of gold leaf. The pillars are decorated in rose, blue, and gold leaf with symbols for Mary and Joseph. Special designs in rose and gold leaf behind the main altar refer to Christ and to the religious as spouses of Christ. The paintings that had been there formerly were removed to permit the new designs.

All Sisters of Saint Joseph from 1891 were received into the Congregation and made vows here. Until the 1970s they were also buried from this Chapel. College students begin their career with an opening Mass in this Chapel, attend their baccalaureate Mass here, and return for many formal occasions. The chapel is very important to the religious mission of Chestnut Hill College.


Chestnut Hill Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1985.

Contosta, David R. "The Philadelphia Story: Life at Immaculata, Rosemont, and Chestnut Hill." In Catholic Women's Colleges in America, edited by Tracy Schier and Cynthia Russett, 123-60. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Contosta, David R., and Carol L. Franklin. "Philadelphia's Wissahickon Valley."

Kashuba, Mary Helen. Chestnut Hill College, 1924-1999: Tradition and Risk. Virginia Beach, VA: Donning Company, 1999.

Logue, Maria Kostka. Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia: A Century of Growth and Development , 1847-1947. Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1950.

Lukacs, John. A Sketch of the History of Chestnut Hill College, 1924-1974. Chestnut Hill, PA: Chestnut Hill College, 1975.

Mark B. Thompson Associates, Architecture & Planning. Chestnut Hill College Strategic Site and Facilities Master Plan Program Report. [Philadelphia: Mark B. Thompson Associates], 1995.


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Last update: November 2006