By: Louis De Gruy – Asstistant Online Editor
In almost every movie involving characters traveling to a large, well-known city, it seems there is always an aerial shot of the city showing its unique landmarks, causing the viewer to think to themselves, “Oh, they are definitely in that place they just said they were going.” If the characters travel to Washington, D.C., we’re treated with a quick flyby of the national mall. If they visit Seattle, we see a shot of the Space Needle. And, if they go to Memphis, we are inexplicably subjected to the image of a 300 foot tall glass and steel pyramid with the Bass Pro logo emblazoned on one face.
While these identifiers are an easy tool for filmmakers, they also serve as part of the cultural identity of the people living in the city. Millions of people visit and work in these landmarks that appear for a few seconds on the screen, and all of these people have at least some memory associated with them. In the same way that these landmarks help form the identity of their cities, I think it’s possible for them to shape the identity of the people who interact with them.
Now, let’s decrease the scale and consider our campus. The University of Dayton’s foremost landmark is, unquestionably, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. It was the only building featured on recruitment letters when I was considering attending UD, to the point where, before my first visit, I actually thought that the chapel may have been the only building on campus.
Without a doubt, the chapel is a source of pride, not just because of what it provides, but because of the history and community it represents.
When I first heard about the planned renovations to the chapel, I had mixed feelings. I felt that something needed to be done to improve the chapel. Without pews or a working organ and with large areas of off-white wall-space, the chapel never struck me as homey enough to function as a comfortable place for worship.
On the other hand, I was worried about what the product of these newfangled renovations would be. I was worried that some contractor would get carried away and ruin our campus symbol by adding in a laser light system or replacing the dome with a statue of Taylor Swift. (While this was my worst-case scenario, I’m sure that it may have been someone’s best-case.)
After visiting the chapel with the seasoned eye of an amateur architectural critic (me), I can happily say that my fears about the renovation were unfounded. The chapel has been redesigned in a perfect blend of its historical roots, its services to the community and its need to adapt to the needs of that community.
For one thing, the creaky, awkward chairs of yesteryear have been replaced with pews from another nearby church (whose congregation has no desire to sit down any more). What’s more, 10 tall windows of stained glass have been installed to accompany the original works of stained glass. All of these help add a sense of beauty to the sanctuary that lends itself to contemplation and prayer.
And, while many aspects of the chapel were updated or replaced, some were simply repurposed, like the woodcut depiction of Mary and the four evangelists. Previously on the front of the original pulpit, it is now mounted on the front of the new baptismal font.
While it kept the chapel’s historical roots in mind, the renovation also sought to address rising needs and better serve our community. To that effect, the sacristy was updated, bathrooms were added and the chapel was incorporated into the campus Wi-Fi network. So be sure to tweet out nuggets of wisdom thrown down at your weekly homily.
In all, I think the renovations have done an excellent job addressing what was needed by our community, while at the same time enhancing and beautifying the place that has become a major part of our identity as a campus community.