Inside The Storied Past Of The Duke Chapel

Duke University has reopened the iconic chapel at the center of its Durham campus after a $19 million renovation.

Crews have been working for a year to restore the limestone walls and ceiling that define the chapel's Gothic architecture. 

Rodney Wynkoop conducts the Duke Chapel Choir during the chapel's reopening celebration on May 11, 2016.
Credit Duke Photography

In a special broadcast at Duke Chapel, university archivist Valerie Gillispie told WUNC’s "The State of Things" the chapel has served as an institutional icon at Duke for nearly 90 years.

“It has been the site of demonstrations,” Gillespie said. “Following Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968, there was a very large silent vigil for about four days where students came out both in an act of mourning and in support of hourly laborers on campus.”

The year-long renovation is the first major restoration since the chapel opened in the 1930s. 

More than 300 people attended a special broadcast of "The State of Things" on Wednesday, May 11 to commemorate the reopening of Duke Chapel.
Credit Duke Photography

Duke Chapel Dean Reverend Luke Powery said he hopes the reopening continues the chapel's original mission of helping students, faculty and broader community “think about the integration of our intellectual lives and our spiritual lives,” he said.

The building’s architecture has helped many preachers over the years embody the sermon and offer “a window into deeper realities,” Powery said.

“Architecture does influence the liturgy, does influence preaching,” Powery said. “The embodiment of that sermon is definitely impacted by the space in which you preach.”

MORE PHOTOS:

Attendees fill the pews during a special broadcast of "The State of Things" at the reopening of Duke Chapel on May 11, 2016.
Credit Duke Photography
Conductor Rodney Wynkoop leads the Duke Chapel Choir during the chapel's reopening ceremony on Wednesday, May 11, 2016.
Credit Duke Photography
Members of the Duke Choir, conducted by Rodney Wynkoop, during the reopening of Duke Chapel on May 11, 2016.
Credit Duke Photography
Members of the Duke Chapel Choir perform during the reopening of the chapel on May 11, 2016.
Credit Duke Photography

Photographs of The Duke Chapel throughout history

DUKE CHAPEL FACTS:

Built: 1930-1932

Dedicated: 1935

Special features: vaulted ceilings, woodwork, stained-glass windows

Construction costs: $19 million in funding from endowment in 1924-1925, which is about $300 million today

Notable speakers: Howard Thurman and Desmond Tutu

Architecture influenced by chapels at other university campuses, including Princeton and the University of Chicago