Monday, February 7, 2011

Shutze's "Little Chapel" (1938-39) a cathedral in 900 square feet

I'm going the the Shutze Awards next Saturday. You should too.

In 1987 our 1st born started pre-K here. I was roaming the halls of kindergarten chaos one day and stumbled into the Little Chapel. I had no idea.

It's a cathedral in 900 square feet. Shutze based the design on St Stephen Walbrook by Sir Christopher Wren: how to "dome a square."

Thing is: Every time I see it, it's like the very first time.

It's overwhelming yet ennobling, to me any way. My pragmatic side sees over-the-top excess. But I'm struck by this idea (from Roger Scruton thanks to Greg Shue). "Put usefulness first, and you lose it. Put beauty first, and what you do will be useful forever."

You can walk right in unless there is a small wedding - there are just 75 seats. I last visited about noon on a rainy Tuesday.

I'll help you find your way there.

Go to Emory University and look for this.

The Little Chapel is in the "H" shaped Education Building behind the sanctuary. See the parking deck on the right? That's the Fishburne Parking Deck. Park there. The hardest part is finding your way through the perpetual construction.

See these 8 windows to the right of the door? That's the chapel, where you are headed.

The chapel "doesn't express itself on the exterior" except here. This is the Willet window from the parking deck and playground.

Exit the parking lot at the pay gate and walk toward Glenn UMC sanctuary, this way:

Walk south between the church and education building. This is also known at the car pool line. Find your way in and to the 1st floor. This is a busy place serving church, kids, and Emory 24/7.

Head towards the south end, the North Decatur Road side, towards the marble diamond floor. Peek into these interior windows. You are there.

Talk close look at the carvings by H.J. Millard.



Most passersby will never know.


  1. Truly amazing and I love the quote.

  2. Takes my breath away. Might have to go for a visit this week. You will like my HOTW tomorrow.
    In honor of Shutze.

  3. Helen, You bet I will. Many Shutze houses to cover. I've only mentioned public places. Maybe we can find: "Shutze's other remarkable interior is located in a wing of Emory Hospital, for which he designed an addition and a new façade in 1945. The Whitehead Memorial Room serves as a boardroom for the hospital..."

  4. The chapel is so beautiful!! I had no idea it was there! How intimate!!

  5. The back of the Chapel! What a feeling the man had for shape

  6. I was married in this chapel 10 years ago, and now my children attend preschool in the classrooms just beyond it. What a special place. Thanks for bringing attention to it.

  7. How magnificent! Thank you so much for this wonderful post, as I never knew it existed. I love your blog, Terry.

    Wayne Daniel Anderson

  8. My parents were married in the Little Chapel in 1947 and my husband and I married there in 1984. Thank you for sharing this as I've often tried to describe the jewel of a chapel buried inside another larger building ;-) now I have pictures to help with my explanation!


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