Chapel in the Rocks

Posted on by Christina Marino

By: Waverly Lowell, Curator

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sedona

When people hear Sedona Arizona, the usual responses are first “the red rocks are incredible” followed by “have you seen the chapel in the rocks??!!”  I spent part of the winter break in Sedona and would say yes to both. 

Sedona is at an elevation of 4,500 feet and considered part of the upper Sonoran Desert of Northern California. The famous red rocks of Sedona are due to the presence of hematite (iron oxide also known as rust) that stains the layer of sand stone known as the Schnebly Hill Formation. The Schnebly Hill Formation is found only in the Sedona vicinity and was deposited during the Permian Period.

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snow in sedona

Although also known for its mild climate, we were lucky to visit during a rare snowstorm. 

Driving through the valley surrounded by geologic splendor, and seeing the Chapel of the Holy Cross rising out of the stone, one can’t help but think of the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. 

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Petra, Jordan

Completed in 1956, the chapel rises 70 feet out of a 1,000-foot red rock cliff.

Local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Staude commissioned the now iconic chapel for Bernard T. Espelage, Bishop of Gallop. It seems that her original idea, in the early 1930s, was to build something in Budapest, Hungary but she had to forgo that plan due to the outbreak of World War II. She then chose to build the church in her native region. Although the chapel is built on Coconino National Forest land, Staude obtained a special-use permit with the assistance of Senator Barry Goldwater.[1]

 

 

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the Chapel of the Holy Cross

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Detail on Planter box outside chapel

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chapel Plaza

Richard Hein was chosen as project architect, and the design was executed by architect August K. Strotz, both from the firm of Anshen & Allen. The chapel was completed in only 18 months.  The chapel is modest with a view that is not. 

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Interior of chapel

It consists of one large room with a small entry way and a flight of stairs down to the gift shop. Once I returned to Berkeley, I immediately viewed the drawings in the EDA Anshen + Allen Collection. 

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Longitudinal Section, Anshen & Allen Collection, Environmental Design Archives

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Presentation drawing, Anshen & Allen Collection, ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN ARCHIVES

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South elevation, Anshen & Allen Collection, Environmental design Archives

 [1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapel_of_the_Holy_Cross_(Sedona,_Arizona) accessed 1/7/2017