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Our Work / Religious

St. Dominic’s Chapel

Jackson, MS

The new Chapel, situated at the most prominent position on the St Dominics medical campus, is an icon that gives appropriate symbolic presence to the purpose and mission of St Dominics. As Sister Dorothea said: What the Chapel stands for, is the reason we are here. The architecture of the chapel was inspired by the simplicity of early Christian Quatrefoil plan churches and the enfolding visual tradition of the later Baroque churches of Rome. The blending of these two architectural traditions echoes the Greek Cross and Roman Cross symbols that are part of the St Dominics corporate logo. The ground on which the chapel is sited is raised to form a landscaped plinth, elevating the Chapel above the surrounding walks and drives, but it remains accessible from the North, or the main entrance side, and also from the West, handicapped entrance side. The altar is in the traditional position East of the Nave, with the Sacristy behind the Altar. Only sacred functions are located in the chapel; the support functions are separated in two support buildings that form an entrance courtyard on the Northside, culminating in two curved granite staircases that lead to the chapel entrances. The pavilion on the Westside serves as a reception foyer and is furnished to serve beverages and light snacks while the pavilion on the East includes a comfortable space for individual counseling and pastoral care. The Chapel at St Dominic's has a gold leaf-covered Orb and Cross that tops the Tower and is the crowning piece of the overall architectural composition. Historically, the Orb and Cross have been widely recognized as one of the oldest symbols in Christendom. It symbolizes the victory of Christ's salvific role of breaking into human history and being among us on earth, over the self-guided initiatives of the secular world. Hence it is known as The Triumphant Cross; a fitting symbol for St Dominics Hospital. It is flood-lighted at night and shines like a beacon of hope for the surrounding Jackson community. The entrance to the chapel is obtained through vestibules completely surrounded by colored glass located at the corners of the cross. The 1 thick glass bricks, called dalle de verre, were chosen for their acoustical mass, the richness of color saturation, and handcrafted quality. Formed by pouring molten glass into moulds, each brick is unique in color and texture. Like walking into a kaleidoscope, these glass chambers, full of colored light, have a cathartic effect and function as threshold spaces separating the hectic outside world from the sanctuary of the chapel. This theme of light and grace is repeated in the tower of the chapel with additional dalle de verre windows that cast soft colored light on white walls above the main chapel area.

The interior spaces of the chapel are austere and finished with a carefully selected palette of materials. Wall finishes are multiple shades of white and act as blank canvases for the play of colored light, revealed upon striking the interior surfaces of the chapel. Soft diffused light enters thru clerestories located above the three arms of the Nave. A three-sided skylight above the Sacristy allows direct light into that sacred room. The chapel floors are patterned black and white marble, with white slab marble edging in the Nave and a rubble made of white marble on the Sacristy floor. The Altar wall extends full height from floor to ceiling behind the Crucifix; the focal point of the Nave. Above the Altar wall are two small skylights that allow the only direct sunlight into the Nave. At certain times of day, beams of sunlight strike the surface of the glass tile on the Altar wall in such a way that it appears to shimmer behind the Crucifix. This visual effect is a dramatic contrast to the darker wood Crucifix which, at times, appears to float in air in front of the wall. The ethereal shimmering quality of the wall is an appropriate backdrop for the Crucifix and as a combined composition is conducive to meditation, reflection and prayer in this light filled sacred space. Having a strong preference for the purity and beauty of the unmediated human voice, an acoustical consultant provided finish selections and materials to enable vive voce readings and chanting of prayers, without use of electronic amplification. A concealed sound reinforcement system is incorporated for those occasions when a large number of people are in attendance. Making the most efficient use of current resources, many of the furnishings including the altar, pews, ambo, crucifix, tabernacle, and the fourteen stations of the cross were reclaimed from the original chapel and refurbished for use in the new building. A lighting consultant assisted with the selection of light fixture types and locations to provide dramatic and effective lighting scenes both inside the chapel and out. The skylight over the sacristy is gold anodized aluminum, topped by an orb and cross, and is also illuminated, as is the stained glass. The bronze statue of St Dominic that previously graced the lobby of the East wing was moved to a cast stone pedestal in the entrance courtyard and it is illuminated at night. Day or night, the chapel has an abiding and dramatic spiritual presence in a prominent public location.


2013 AIA Mississippi Merit Award