History of the StFX University Chapel
The original StFX Chapel, now Dennis Hall at the Coady International Institute, was a gift to the university from Dr. John E. Somers, an alumnus from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, it had little provision for the future as it could only hold a small percentage of the student population.
The present University Chapel was designed by American architect Jens F. Larson. Archbishop James Morrison opened the new chapel for divine worship on October 31, 1948. Monsignor P. J. Nicholson, president, and Monsignor H. P. MacPherson, president emeritus, were in the sanctuary for the opening service. The solemn dedication of the Chapel to the patron saint of the University took place during the commencement exercises in May, 1949.
Located on University Avenue, in the heart of Lower Campus, the University Chapel is the center of worship for the Christian community at StFX.
The chapel accommodates 650, and the now seldom-used University Auditorium which is located in the basement of the new structure seats 700. The chapel is the venue for a variety of important university events throughout the Academic Year, including the Xaverian Welcome Ceremony, the Opening Mass of the Holy Spirit, the Homecoming Mass , the Alumni Memorial Mass on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Xaverian Farewell, and the Baccalaureate Mass. Until 2006 it was also the venue for the X-Ring Ceremony, which was moved to the Keating Centre to accommodate the growing number of students receiving their X-Rings. An interesting aspect of the chapel's interior are the structures created by former St. FX artist-in-residence, the late Angus MacGillivary. A magnificent Celtic cross was one of his masterpieces along with the 'ark of the covenant' tabernacle as well as the guardian angels of the tabernacle. Angus MacGillivary, once a hardrock miner, was one of the faculty members in the St. FX Fine Art Department until the time of his death in 1978.
Tom Roach's book, The Jewel of the Campus: A History of the StFX Chapel and its Art, details the exquisite interior of the University Chapel. A brief overview of the Chapel's art can be viewed here.
Photo of original interior of the present St FX Chapel copyright StFX Archives.