One of the loveliest modern chapels I’ve ever visited is Thorncrown Chapel, located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
Thorncrown Chapel was designed by E. Fay Jones, who had apprenticed with the great Frank Lloyd Wright, and was built in 1980. The chapel was commissioned by Jim Reed, a retired schoolteacher, who wanted to create a non-denominational pilgrimage chapel for meditation. The chapel is elegant yet blends in with the local landscape, seeming an airy part of it.
Thorncrown Chapel is constructed mostly of local wood (e.g. Southern pine) and was built with the general rule of thumb that no materials bigger than what two people could carry should be used (e.g. 2x6s instead of massive beams). The floor is constructed with slabs of local limestone, which you see layered in the surrounding hills.
The chapel is 48 ft tall and has 425 windows containing some 6,000 sq ft of glass, giving the impression of an open-air structure. It is, however, fully enclosed and climate controlled, although obviously has wonderful natural light. Since it was constructed, more than 6,000,000 people have visited Thorncrown.
Thorncrown was received numerous rewards and recognition for its beautiful architecture and setting. It is often recognized by travel and architectural magazines for its uniqueness. In 2000 Thorncrown Chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a status usually not granted to buildings fewer than fifty years old unless they are exceptional.
As you might expect, the chapel is popular venue for weddings.
If you visit:
Thorncrown Chapel is located on Highway 62 , a mile and a half west of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. There is no admission fee, but donations are gladly accepted (though not with any pressure to do so). There is ample parking near the chapel.
Thorncrown Chapel is open for visitation during these hours:
- April through November: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM (On weekends and some weekdays the chapel occasionally closes at as early as 2:15 PM for special events. Please call ahead to make sure the chapel will be open).
- March and December :11:00 AM to 4:00 PM
- Closed in January and February except for weddings.
Besides the chapel, there is an adjoining worship center where I believe Sunday worship services are held. It too is a lovely structure but was locked when we visited so we couldn’t explore it.
(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, right arrow to advance slideshow)