Take Me Up To The Spirit In The Sky-Chapel Of The Holy Cross Sedona, Arizona
” Its doors will ever be open to one and all, regardless of creed, that God may come to life in the souls of all men and be a living reality, herein lies the whole message of this chapel.” …”The plaque concludes: “This is my offering . . . Ad Magorem Dei Gloria!” Signed, Marguerite Brunswig Staude. She gave forward this chapel believing that the arts should be in service of spirit.
While I was looking for things to see and do, I read that this chapel was a Frank Lloyd Wright design. However, I did a bit more research (well-a lot) and learned that the Internet is a great way to spread a rumor. I wanted to learn more, so I did what every other person with nothing better to do on a Saturday night does, I researched the life of Marguerite Brunswig Staude and the building of her chapel.
Surrounding the place where the chapel sits are mystic hills that are filled with sacred imagery in the form of animal faces; such as Eagle Rock. To the east, there is a rock formation that resemble Madonna and the child, other formations some say, look like praying nuns; others, like 3 wisemen. The most interesting point to me is that these red rocks are located in an area known for unusual energy, and the chapel is said to be embraced by a vortex . The story of her Marguerite’s life and how the chapel came to be reads like a storybook; with pages that turn themselves. It was as if a force greater than herself helped this architectural marvel come to be. I was curious and I returned to that chapel 14 years after my first visit.
So is this a Frank Lloyd Wright design? NO and NO. The truth is that there is a connection. Below is a pictorial of my visit and for those who may also be interested, the story of how the chapel came to be.
Although this church seems to blend somewhat with the surroundings, It is set 100 feet above the Verde River Vally, this is a place that one might miss driving Hwy 179 through Sedona. However, if you do spot this landmark, you would notice that this is something very special.
As I drove closer, I noticed that the chapel sits right on top of the salmon-colored twin buttes. It’s as if the cross was planted into the stone as King Arthur placed his sword in stone.
These photos were without edit. The color of the blue against the stone is is breathtaking and each direction that I turned, I saw a 360 degree panoramic view.
Although there is parking available closer to the top, the road was narrow and hectic with visitors. There are portable toilets available near the parking area and to note, there are no restrooms in the chapel. I parked at the bottom and chose to walk up to the chapel. The walk is a bit steep with cars steadily coming and going. There were attendants controlling parking and a few benches for rest spots if needed. I felt this walk a really great way to gain perspective on scale and marvel at what it must have taken to build.
The view on the way up is simply a wonder of this world.
As I wound up the curvy chapel path, I had to stop several times to take in the views.
I saw this sculpture placed in a spot along the walkway. Overall, this chapel is unadorned and let’s the sight speak to it’s importance. Humble and strong.
From the top of the walkway, I saw this monstrosity of a house in view.
Not only is this an architectural marvel, it is a property on the National Register of Historic Places. A cultural resource worth preserving and an example of “Post War Modern” Architecture. It was also named as one of The Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona. The land is located in the Coconino National Forest and to be built, Marguerite also needed to move through governmental hoops a permit was granted with the assistance of then Gov. Barry Goldwater. it is good to have friends.
From the side view and from a distance, I noticed a lot of concrete but as I made the last wind up the path, I noticed that I was able to see through the church from the front to the back. Check out how large these doors are.The inside is small in stature but grand in view. There are seven pews on each side of the chapel and an area for candles. At the back there is a simple altar with metal candle holders. Again humble with the setting as adornment.
Serene, meditative, spiritual.
This chapel is still owned by The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. I read that there were services held in this location but due to the size of the chapel and the growing area, a nearby Catholic Church holds services at that location. According to Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail, ..”Marguerite donated the chapel to the Roman Catholic Church but requested that no services be held there. She wanted to chapel to be a place to pray, reflect and find God through the beauty of art.” What a way to honor your parents!
As always, I reflected upon the divisions and labels of religions throughout our world history. I love that this chapel makes a point to welcome people of all faiths. Marguerite Staude was a true visionary, someone who left an extremely special mark on this earth. What can all of us do to make our world more peaceful?
If you are interested in the story of how this church came to be, read on. Also, check out the link to some of the original drawings, and a fantastic article. See link below for the wonderful write by Matthew Alderman.
MEGastars: 5 *****
- In the basement of the chapel, there is a small gift shop.
- This visit will not take you long as the chapel is small.
- No restrooms in the chapel.
- The visit is free of charge.
- A Taize prayer service is held on Monday’s. I would love to have had this experience. There are many religions who forbid and mock “chanting.” Some call it an unbiblical way to meet with God. STOP judging. Picture happy children of all races and religions singing happy songs in a sandbox. Who wants to stop these moments? If we all had the time to play with each other in the same sandbox, we might just make this world a better place. Don’t Judge, stop labeling, travel, experience, visit other faiths, respect and if you are not an alien, open your own soul.
- If you have difficulty walking, drive as close as possible, you may just need to wait for a spot to open up.
- Get outside and enjoy the wonder of nature.
For Further Reading: So, just who is Marguerite Staude and how did this chapel come to be?
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana to her French born, naturalized U.S. citizen father Lucien Napoleon Brunswig and Marguerite Wogan. Marguerite was a second marriage. First married to Anne Mercer, she dies in 1892 along with two sons. Lucien was a chemist who worked in the wholesale drug business. He moved his family to the Los Angelels area and was the owner of the Brunswig Drug Company. Very successful in his life work, this family was able to live a privileged life and through ship records that I peeked at on Ancestry.com, I was able to see this family travel to Europe by ship. It is said Marguerite and her siblings went to boarding school and she later studied art in both New York and Los Angeles. Marguerite was interested in drama, various types of sculpture including stone carving and bronze sculptures. In the 1930’s she was an artist living and working in New York City and Los Angeles, California.
- 1932 Marguerite was at St. Patrick’s in New York city for Ash Wednesday mass. After leaving mass, she was walking and the sun hit the newly built Empire State Building in such a way that a cross was superimposed upon this structure. Marguerite was inspired to build a modern church of this scale and said that this vision haunted her until her dream came to pass.
- 1932-1935 Marguerite returned her Los Angeles home and studio, drew up a sketch of a grand modern skyscraper church. Excited about her ideas, she brought the sketch to her friend and architect, Lloyd Wright (so the son of Frank Lloyd Wright.) The two of them designed a plan with the hope that this would be built in the downtown area of Los Angeles and become Catholic Cathedral of Los Angeles. Although her parents had agreed to donate the land, the modern plans were not approved by the Archbishop of the Los Angeles Diocese, the Cathedral went on hold.
- 1935 and according to the obit of her husband, Elmer Victor “Tony” Staude, a Texas native, they met in Los Angles. He worked for her Father’s Brunswig Drug Company. With a business graduate, he quickly rose through the ranks to become president.
- 1937, a Hungarian order of nuns became interested in building this church above the Danube River in Budapest Hungary. Once again resistance was met, this time in the form of WWII.
- 1938 Marguerite and Elmer Victor Staude marry.
- In 1941,seeking refuge from possible attack during WWII, Staude and her husband, Tony, bought Doodlebug Ranch in Sedona.(Oak Mountain.) Marguerite gathred inspiration to sculpt and enjoyed making jewelry from items found in the surrounding desert. She taught art classes in Sedona and on occasion at the old Jordan barn, now known as the Sedona Art Barn.
- 1943 and 1946, Marguerites Father and Mother died respectively. Mother Marguerite Staude left a spiritual trust.
- In the 1950’s while visiting France, Marguerite set her eyes upon a church that so inspired her. Designed by the painter Georges Roualt. Upon meeting with Lloyd Wright, he refused to make this changes.
- 1955-Once again, undaunted by a challenge, she chose the San Francisco Designers: Anshen and Allen, Architect Firm. William Stephen Allen Jr. (architect); S. Robert Anshen (architect) and Marguerite Brunswig Staude. A crucifixion figure in wrought iron was designed by the San Francisco sculptor, Keith Monroe;
- While scouting for an appropriate sight, I have read that along with the architects, Tony and Marguerite hiked and drove this area, as well as fly over potential sites. it has been said that there was an apothecary painted on a rock at this site. Because of Mr. Ludwig and Mr. Staude’s professions, it was said to have been one of the many reasons that this site was selected.
- 1955-1957 The chapel is built.
- 1957-The chapel received the Award of Honor from the American Institute of Architects.
- May, 15, 1988 Marguerite dies in California
ARCHITECTURE ENTHUSIASTS-check out the original plans. Article with sketches of the original plan. A Curiosity: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Son and Los Angeles Cathedral
- Colloquy, Spring 2008
- Arizona Republic, July 6, 2012 Page 1.
- Sedona Red Rock News.
- Scottsdale Arizona/gov Historic Preservation
- Womens Heritage Trail-Marguerite Staude
- Upon This Rock; Marguerite Brunswig Staude and her Sedona Chapel -by Kate Ruland-Thorne ***I have not read this book but now must do so.
- Marguerite Staude Obituary from The Los Angeles Times
- Elmer Victor Staude Obituary
Timeline notes and thoughts.
- 1878 Lucien Brunswig marries his first wife Anne Mercer in New Orleans, LA
- 1880 This couple os found in US. Census in Fort Worth, Texas
- 1887 Lucien Napoleon Brunswig b. Montmedy, France was naturalized in Louisiana
- 1892 wife Anne Mercier and two sons Lucien Napoleon Brunswig and Mercer Brunswig die.
- 1894-Lucien is listed in Los Angeles, California, City Directory, 1897
- 1898 Lucien N. Brunswig b. France and Marguerite Wogan b. Louisiana were married 7-2-1898 in New Orleans, LA (Source marriage record Ancestry.com) Source CitationLouisiana Vital Records; Volume: 20; Page: 760
- 1899 or 11,9,1901 Marguerite Brunswig was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to Lucien Brunswig, a chemist entrepreneur who built very successful wholesale drug company and the founder of Brunswig Pharmaceuticals.
- 1900 with a Pyrtania St address in New Orleans.
- 1902- New Orleans, Louisiana, City Directory, 1902 Lucien is now the President of Nikkels-Stone Drug co.
- During the next number of years, Lucien is consistently listed in Los Angeles City Directories.
- 1910-1930 according to U.S. Census she was living in the city of Los Angeles. During this time it has been written that she graduated high school and afraid to tell her father that she wanted to become an artist, she fled to France to join other artists. Considering that she would have graduated high school during the time of WWI and with France having been involved, I find this story unlikely; although a variation of this story may be more accurate. What is plausible and known is that she had an extremely privileged background. From ship records, we know that she did travel the world including France. We also know that Lucien was honored in southern California by France for his relief work. During WWI. Source U.S. WWI soldier citations-newspaper article 1919-1920 (we see he traveled to the port of Le Havre in 1919. From this ship record we see that his family was NOT with him. Of course, now I plan to read her biography.
- 1920 Marguerite is living with her parents in Los Angeles. No occupation is listed for her.
- 1924-Marguerite travels with her parents to Le Havre, France to New York, NY Source NY Passengers Lists, Ancestry.com
- 1929- Marguerite travels with her parents from Villefe, France to the Port of New York (source NY Passengers List Ancestry.com)
- 1930 as above
- 1932 Marguerite is in New York, city