I've lived in Arizona for 70 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, books and travel.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Chapel of the Holy Cross
The Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona Arizona, located at 780 Chapel Road, is visited by millions of tourists from all around the world. Some come to seek quiet meditation, some come for the spectacular views in all directions, and others come to enjoy the art and architecture of the unusual chapel. The Chapel was built by Marguerite Brunswig Staude as a memorial for her parents, who were devout Catholics.
Marguerite was born in 1899, the daughter of Lucien Brunswig the founder of the Brunswig Drug Company. She lived a life of privilege, traveled across Europe with her mother to the major cities of Europe and attended private schools. After finishing a high school level of education, Marguerite was afraid to tell her father that she wanted to live in Paris and develop her interest in art, so she left behind a note and ran away to join other young artists who had found kindred spirits in France. After trying her hand in several areas of art and drama, Marguerite was most interested in various types of sculpture including stone carving and bronze sculptures.
The 1930s found Marguerite living and working as an artist in Los Angeles and New York City. One day, she said she had been returning from St. Patrick's Cathedral when she was thinking that more churches should reflect the modern world. It came to her that she wanted to design a church that would reflect the modern age. Just then, she looked upward and saw two steel beams that crossed and she knew that she wanted to build a cruciform or a church shaped like a cross.
Marguerite returned to Los Angeles excited about her ideas, and she contacted Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright about building a church downtown Los Angeles. Even though her parents had agreed to donate the land, the Dioceses of Los Angeles Archbishop, turned down Marguerite's proposal. He told her that people weren't quite ready for a church this modern.
Meanwhile, Marguerite had met and married Tony Staude in 1938. He had been to Arizona and urged that Marguerite and he should purchase a home in the Sedona area. Marguerite was inspired to sculpt, but she also enjoyed making jewelry from found items in the surrounding desert. She taught art classes in Sedona on occasion at the old Jordan barn that became known as the Sedona Art Barn.
By 1950, both of her parents were deceased, and Marguerite once again began thinking about building a chapel that would be a fitting memorial for her parents. She took her first airplane ride over the Sedona area to scout for possible locations. When she found an area that she considered the perfect spot, she said that she received two signs on the property that she had chosen the right land. The first sign was a red rock spire that appeared to be shaped like a Madonna holding a child, and the second sign was that she found a symbol carved into a rock on the area that had meaning as a symbol that her father, as a pharmacist, would have known.
Once again, Marguerite would have to overcome obstacles to build the church. First the land was on Arizona forest land. Then Arizona senator, Barry Goldwater, reviewed the plans for the church and urged the Arizona Legislature to approve the use of the land. Barry called the church, "a noble structure" for all people to find peace and beauty. Once the land was approved, Marguerite approached the Bishop of Santa Fe to approve the building of the church. At first the Bishop tried to have Marguerite donate the funds that it would take to build the church and donate them to the Native Americans in Arizona to ease their poverty, but in the end, he gave his approval.
The building of the Chapel of the Holy Cross began in 1955 and was completed in 1956. One of the biggest misconceptions that I've heard about the Chapel is that Marguerite hired Frank Lloyd Wright or his son Lloyd to design the Chapel. Not true! By the time Marguerite had decided to build the Chapel, she hired the architectural design firm of Anshen and Allen of San Francisco and the William Simpson Construction Co. The Chapel was completed at a construction cost of $300,000.
While the Chapel is owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, it is maintained by the St. John Vianny Catholic Parrish of Sedona, Marguerite requested than no services were to be held there. However the Chapel now has a Taize Prayer Service every Monday at 5:00. The service lasts about 30 minutes and consists of singing, prayer, and quiet meditation. It was, and is still a place for people of all faiths to pray and reflect and find God through the beauty of art. Marguerite created a Madonna sculpture for the Chapel, and she created the Stations of the Cross of rough antique nails and another stone carved sculpture of the head of Jesus that sits to the rear of the Chapel. Until her death in 1988, Marguerite received letters from all over the world from visitors who had marveled at the beauty of the Chapel and the surrounding area. She achieved her goal to build a place that would "send the spirit onward."
The Chapel has been granted a listing on the National Register of Historic Places and is listed in various directories of sacred places. There is an on-line book and gift store as well as the actual gift store located in the basement of the Chapel. There isn't a charge to visit, and it is one of the best places for a minute of quiet reflection and prayer. It is also a wonderful place for photos. The Chapel is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, Good Friday and Easter.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
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Stephanie Henkel from USA on April 12, 2011:
I visited the Chapel last winter and it is truly a unique and beautiful structure in a spectacular setting. Thanks for writing this hub about Marquerite Staude and the history of the chapel; It's so interesting.