Since construction was completed on Duke Chapel in the early 1930s, it has become a symbol of the university. The neo-Gothic chapel stands in the physical center of the Duke University, at the highest point of the West campus.
Designed to appeal to Southerners of different faiths and backgrounds, it’s construction and design include symbols and imagery representing different Christian faiths, including Methodist and Protestant, as well as figures from Southern history.
Members of the Duke family, including Washington Duke and his sons James B. Duke and Benjamin N. Duke, are entombed in the Memorial Chapel, which is not open to the public. Though it was not part of the plans for the original structure, the Duke Memorial Association made the decision to add it. Several former presidents and important figures to the university are also buried in the crypt beneath the Memorial Chapel.
Architecture and Renovations
There are 77 handmade stained glass windows in the chapel. Each portrays a different character or story from the Bible.
The chapel’s tower is 210 feet high, making it easy to spot from many vantage points on Duke’s campus.
Nine life-size statues greet visitors in the entry. They represent Girolamo Savonarola, Martin Luther, and John Wycliffe, Thomas Coke, Francis Asbury, George Whitfield, Thomas Jefferson, Sidney Lanier, and John Wesley.
Three large, unique pipe organs are used in the chapel. Each is located in a different area of the chapel and has its own uses during services.
Duke Chapel was closed from May 2015-May 2016 to complete necessary repairs to the ceiling.
Duke Chapel remains in regular use today, not only for religious services but for performances and private events. A popular wedding venue, its classically crafted wooden pews can seat up to 1,600 people.