Setting out on a drive yesterday with no particular destination in mind, I found myself at the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs. I have lived in Colorado for 30 years, and yesterday – a very gray day – was the day I chose to get off the interstate and pay a visit. I can’t believe I waited this long.
Here are a few facts for those of you who may not be familiar with this incredible building:
The building was designed by Walter A. Netsch, Jr. of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (think John Hancock Center, the Sears Tower and Republic Plaza for those of you in Denver). The contractor, Robert E. McKee, Inc. of Santa Fe, New Mexico, began construction in 1959 and finished in the summer of 1963. The 17-spire building is made of aluminum, glass and steel. Tetrahedrons form the geometry of the ceiling of the 99-feet high Protestant Chapel (the Catholic, Jewish and Buddhist chapels are one story below).
The main Protestant Chapel seats 1,200. The altar is made of sleek marble with travertine marble legs. The most striking element of the chancel is the aluminum cross – 46 feet high, 12 feet wide and weighing 1,200 pounds.
The organ in the chapel, pictured taking up most of the window below, is one of the most magnificent pieces in the country. The pipes range in size from 32 feet high to the size of a pencil.
The focal point of the Catholic Chapel is the beautiful mosaic on the wall behind the altar. Superimposed on the mural are the Blessed Virgin Mary (pictured below) and Archangel Gabriel. The side walls of the chapel are amber glass with multi-colored cast glass strip windows. The 14 Stations of the Cross are made of 4-inch thick marble slabs.
If you haven’t already visited the Cadet Chapel, you should. Bring your camera.