The Joseph Bond Chapel
Welcome to Joseph Bond Chapel. Located in the main quadrangle of the University, the chapel affirms the special place of worship and spiritual life in an intellectual community. We are pleased to share with visitors the history and design that have made this building a sanctuary for generations of students, faculty, and other members of this community.
History and Tour of Bond Chapel
Southwest of Swift Hall and connected to it by a beautiful stone cloister is the Joseph Bond Chapel. Both Swift Hall and Bond Chapel were designed by the architects Coolidge and Hodgdon at the end of the Gothic revival period in America. The Chapel was given by Mrs. Joseph Bond in memory of her husband, a former Trustee of the Baptist Theological Union, the predecessor institution of the Divinity School. Mr. and Mrs. Bond's daughter, Elfleda, married Edgar J. Goodspeed, a member of the university faculty noted for his translation of the New Testament. After her death in 1949, Mr. Goodspeed donated the stained-glass windows in her memory.
The cornerstone of the chapel was laid by Mrs. Bond on April 30, 1925, and the chapel was opened in October, 1926.
As a university chapel, it serves as the location for a wide variety of spiritual and ceremonial events, and also for performing arts events. The Divinity School uses it for weekly reflective gatherings, and for many ceremonial occasions. It is used extensively for weddings, funerals, gatherings by members of the different religious traditions represented at the university, and for concerts. The Reneker organ, a fine baroque tracker organ placed in the chapel in 2012, makes it a destination for baroque and early music, but it is also a valued space for many other kinds of musical performance. It seats about 130 persons.
All the main aspects of the Bond Chapel—its location, architecture, inscriptions, furnishings and stained glass—serve to mark its place (both physically and symbolically) within the University.
In whimsical, imaginative, and picturesque ways, the stone carvings outside and the wood carvings inside call attention to the eternal struggle between right and wrong and to the aids and securities offered by the religious community.
On the outside, chiefly along the sides and the back, are monochrome gray stone sculptures of hideous and noxious creatures: imps, demons, dragons, lions, griffons, and grotesques. They cling precariously to the cornices. They jut from the corners. They slide down the waterspouts. The west wall holds the scriptural quotation, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Here also may be seen the figures of Adam and Eve with the snake and apple, suggesting at once the weaknesses and the possibilities of human nature. On the east facade, the sculptures are more benign: musical angels, a peaceful eagle, and a medieval Good Shepherd. These invite you to the interior of the chapel.
Within, on the east wall of the narthex, there hangs a bronze plaque designed by the famous sculptor Lorado Taft, which reads: "Erected in Memory of Joseph Bond for the Worship of God and the Service of Man, 1926." This inscription was composed by Mrs. Bond. A section of the wood paneling near the tablet has been carved to read "Peace I Leave With You."
In the carved screen that separates the narthex from the nave, one sees birds among vines and grape clusters, a bird-and-plant symbol as old as the catacombs, symbolizing human souls secure in the mystical vine that is at once Christ and the Christian community—the vine and the branches of the Fourth Gospel.
The cast window, above the balcony, carries the legend, "In Loving Memory of Elfleda Bond Goodspeed 1880-1949," with a descriptive word at the bottom of each of seven panels: "Brave-Generous-Loyal-Wise-Patient-Thoughtful-Kind."
The north stained-glass windows read: "And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ."
The south stained-glass windows read: "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise-Be thankful unto Him and bless His name."
The balcony, which was constructed in 1955, carried the Schlicker baroque organ until 2011 and now carries the Reneker organ; carved in the wood of the balcony railing are the words: "Praise God in His Sanctuary—Praise Him for Noble Acts—Praise Him on Lute and Harp—Praise Him on Strings and Pipe—Praise Ye the Lord."
On the open-beamed roof are polychrome angels, some with outspread wings, playing various musical instruments: cymbals, pipes, violins, horns, and harps. Hammer-beam angels with folded wings, extending several feet from the walls, patiently hold up the suspended lights of the chapel. Both groups silently join in a continuous service of praise and thanksgiving.
Some of the Beatitudes are carved in a frieze around the wall, and through this pierced screen the chapel is heated in winter. The Beatitudes included here are "the merciful," "the pure in heart," "the peacemakers," "they that mourn," "the meek," and "they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness."
Inlaid on the front of the altar is a superb Byzantine design, with the urn of memory standing at the center. The urn symbolically contains the ashes of death, but by a perpetual miracle there springs from it the luxuriant foliage of a living vine. On either side of the urn stand peacocks, popular embodiments of hope for immortality, witnessing the miracle of life coming from apparent death.
In the chancel space around the altar, carved in the canopy above the altar and looking down, are winged, child-faced cherubs, recalling the gospel words, "Beware of feeling scornful of one single little child. For I tell you that in heaven their angels have continuous access to My Father who is in heaven."
The most intense and striking concentration of symbolism in the Chapel is seen in the chancel window (to the west), directly above the altar and its canopy. The window was the creation of Charles J. Connick of Boston, America's greatest colorist in glass. The circles in the lower lancets present the names and symbols of Jesus' disciples. At the very center of this tier are the medallions of John the Baptizer and Elijah the Prophet. Thus Jesus himself is placed in the succession of Jewish prophets.
In the second row of lancets, at the top center, are the symbols of the great apostles: James of Jerusalem, Paul of Tarsus, and Peter. The two windows at either end of this range carry the four creature symbols which the Jews and early Christians used apocalyptically, but which patristic and medieval writers associated with the four evangelists.
In the traceries above appear range on range of celestial creatures, nine pairs of them, grouped about the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God, at the center. Here are Seraphim with hearts, Cherubim with book, Thrones and Dominions, Principalities and Virtues clad in full panoply, and Powers with tiny imps of Satan chained to their feet. Angel organists and trumpeters provide musical accompaniment for the celestial pageant.
The chancel window, then, is a sort of comprehensive spectacle of the whole New Testament, beginning with the kingdom activities of Jesus and his friends in Palestine, continuing with the hellenized reinterpretation of primitive Christianity to the gentile world by Apostles and evangelists, and ending with the apocalyptic visions of the Patmos seer, in which choirs of angels and archangels united to ascribe: "Blessing and honor and glory and power to him who is seated on the throne and to the lamb for ever and ever." A vision of heavenly worship is the colorful climax of the Chapel symbolism.
You are warmly invited to use Bond Chapel as a place of individual meditation or prayer when it is not in use for an event.
This text is based in part on a talk by Professor Harold R. Willoughby, delivered on May 2, 1939, in Bond Chapel.
Reserving Bond Chapel for Events
Events at Bond Chapel, including weddings and other ceremonies, are managed by the Dean and staff at Rockefeller Chapel (in collaboration with the Divinity School).
For information about weddings, including eligibility, please see Weddings at Rockefeller Chapel and Bond Chapel
When classes are in session, every Wednesday at 11:30 a brief interfaith gathering is held in Bond Chapel. The service is co-sponsored by the Divinity School and Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, and planned by a student-led committee. Students, faculty, and staff serve as preachers. These Wednesday services offer hospitable space and a welcoming community in which to pause, reflect, wonder, and pray. All are welcome.
The students who plan our services meet regularly to talk about our goals as a worshipping community. You are welcome to add your voice to our planning committee, so that we may continue to provide a worship experience that connects with the needs of our community.
For more information about Wednesday worship, please contact McKinna Daugherty at email@example.com.