The red chapel’s space is quaint as it is quiet. Dark wooden pews and hardwood floors glisten in the window’s sunlight. St. Sylvanus’ compact space and Rublev’s Trinity icon both speak of the intimacy of the chapel’s services. For over 170 years, the body of Christ has gathered here for morning and evening prayers, Holy Eucharist, baptisms, vigils, and funerals. The chapel sits atop upper Nashotah Lake against a thin tree line background, an emblem of the heartbeat of Nashotah House: Worship.
My fondest memories of St. Sylvanus evoke imagery of the deep red building serenely situated amidst winter’s white landscape. The symbolism is poignant: Here is a place to celebrate the blood of the Lamb that washes the world of sin, making her people white as snow. One wonders how many lives were given to Christ, how many believers baptized in this sacred little space since its erection in the 19th century. And how was this chapel utilized in the early days, when Nashotah House was a newborn mission to the western frontier? The icon of James Lloyd Breck on the south wall holding the chapel in his hands conjures images in my mind of him preaching here daily during the mid 19th century, encouraging congregants in their faith and love of Jesus, and teaching the doctrines of the faith to local natives who curiously showed up for Mass.
If my experience of the red chapel elicits a nostalgic feeling in you, might I say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Over the summer, our maintenance crew and several students worked diligently for many hours (and many days!) to refurbish old St. Sylvanus. By the sweat of their brows, these guys stripped and repainted the red exterior, sanded the floors to their original look, restored old pews, and situated the original altar up against the eastern wall, its first location. One of the crew came across a very old set of candle holders, whose bottoms are inscribed with the autograph of the original artist – Samuel Breck, brother of founding father James Lloyd Breck (the guy in the icon). All of these refurbishments and rearrangements are better seen than described, so here’s a few pictures for your enjoyment:
When this school year is over, those who stick around campus for the summer will again gather here daily to pray, hear the Word, and partake of the body and blood of Christ. They will sense the 170 years of holiness emanating from the space, and pray for 170 years more.
– Cameron MacMillan ’16