The Perpetual Adoration Chapel is a small building that is in continual use for prayer and meditation. It was designed around a magnificent set of nine, 100-year-old stained-glass windows made by F.X. Zettler of Bavaria. The architect drew inspiration from ancient country churches and designed a chapel that would look a thousand years old, but would meet all of the modern needs of its users.
The Chapel sits on a secluded two-acre wooded site behind the main sanctuary, separate from the main church in shape, design, purpose and mood. The Perpetual Adoration Chapel is dedicated solely to 24-hour prayer in an unbroken chain of one-hour shifts. The interior was designed to frame the priceless windows, which were salvaged from St. Matthew’s Church in Fall River, MA and donated by the Bishop. Other requirements were that the Chapel provide a comfortable place for worshipers, many of whom are elderly or disabled, and that all routine maintenance and cleaning be performed with a minimum of disruptions.
The Chapel is built of masonry walls with exposed heavy timber trusses and roof decking. The exterior is New Hampshire granite trimmed with Indiana limestone, and the stone buttresses absorb some of the roof ’s lateral load while paying tribute to Gothic cathedrals of the past.
The entire design inside and out was planned to accommodate the twelve-foot high stained-glass windows. Their pointed, two-centered arches determined the overall shape of the Chapel, and this shape and proportion are carried over in the doors and trim throughout the Chapel. The altar is appropriately situated on a raised marble platform, flanked by a pair of praying angel statues, and separated from the Nave by a custom made oak altar rail. The architect also included some graceful new artwork, most notably the pair of angels on the altar, a painting of the heavens in the domed area above the altar and – in the tradition of Greek caryatids – more angels where the trusses meet the wall.
Although the stained-glass windows established the major design elements of the building, the interior space had to highlight the altar and offer to worshipers a spiritually-directed atmosphere. The intimacy of the space is designed to lift the eyes upward: pointed arches a repeated quatrefoil pattern, a raised marble Sanctuary, a painting of the heavens on the ceiling around the apse and the various angel statues all help establish a sweeping, uplifting feeling.
The stained-glass windows, which depict moments in the life of Jesus, were installed in chronological order and because the Chapel is in use 24-hours a day, they can be seen aglow at night. This presented a special challenge, as the windows on either side of the front door are installed in two small rooms (the sacristy and the restroom), and not in the well-lit main sanctuary. Special lights on timers were installed to illuminate these two windows at night. Additional lighting inside comes from four hanging chandeliers and concealed spotlights that highlight the altar, statues and other artwork.