Charles Z. Klauder of Philadelphia designed the building in a neo-Gothic style. The chapel’s modified cruciform plan, stone vaults, high ceilings, repeated arches, and extensive use of glass are typical of American academic and religious architecture from about 1900 until after World War II.
All of the wrought-iron work (lanterns, door fittings, and stair railings) was fabricated by Samuel Yellin of Philadelphia. The chapel’s altar cross and candlesticks also are by Yellin.
All of the visible wood in the chapel, from its entrance doors, each of which weighs 800 pounds, to the reredos, is oak. The reredos, choir stalls, chancel rails, pulpit, lectern, and narthex screen are of English pollard oak. The pews and narthex ceiling are of Appalachian Mountain oak. The exceptional carving was executed by Irving and Casson/A. H. Davenport Company of Boston.
The stained-glass windows are the work of Charles J. Connick’s Boston studio. Connick, a native of western Pennsylvania, received his early training in Pittsburgh. He was in the forefront of the movement that rediscovered 13th-century stained glass in Europe and established neo-Gothic as the American stained glass of choice in the first half of the 20th century.
The chapel’s 23 windows total approximately 4,000 square feet and contain nearly 250,000 pieces of glass. There are 391 identifiable figures in the windows, a large supporting cast of anonymous individuals, and an extensive variety of flora and fauna. The iconography combines traditional religious figures and symbols with historic and cultural figures that extend from biblical times through the middle ages to the late 19th century.
The five chancel windows represent the virtues of justice, faith, charity, hope, and wisdom. They feature the parables of Jesus and figures from the Old and New Testament. The chancel windows are complemented on each side by smaller windows over the choir stalls that celebrate music and recognize its importance in divine worship.
The five aisle windows depict well-known hymns. They are the easiest to view and appreciate up close. The figures include shepherds and magi from the hymn “O Come all Ye Faithful” to famous authors and composers such as Chaucer and Beethoven.
The four clerestory windows, high above the aisles, represent great teachers and interpreters of Christian thought.
The three gallery windows at the west end of the chapel represent three great Christian literary works: St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun,” John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and “The Quest for the Holy Grail” from Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur.
The 73-foot transept windows, among the tallest in the world, represent the character traits of tolerance, courage, temperance, and truth. A symbol of each trait is in the tracery. The windows, which highlight an equal number of women and men, contain sacred and secular figures from history, literature, and science. A rosette above each set of windows contains a red-winged seraph on the north and a blue-winged cherub on the south.
From the perspective of our multicultural and uncertain perch, the sense of values and intrinsic truth that the Heinz Memorial Chapel iconography portrays can seem remote. But, as with all great buildings that are truly representative of the best of their times, this chapel’s truth and beauty can challenge us to find these values for our own day.
A 72-page, full-color book with a complete appendix of all 391 figures in the chapel windows is available in the gift shop.
The chapel’s walls, inside and out, are made of Indiana limestone. Their carvings follow the Gothic tradition of pictorial instruction. They are part of the plan and meaning of the building and express, as do the windows inside, the chapel’s dedication to spiritual values in education.
Outside, the insignia of some of the world’s oldest colleges and universities are carved on shields on the gables, balustrade, parapets, spandrels, and buttresses.
On the tympanum, above the main doors, the theme of spiritual values in education continues. Old Testament prophets, patriarchs, priests, and King David share space with St. Francis of Assisi, Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, Pasteur, Wordsworth, Lincoln, and Emerson.
Inside, the stone carvings include the Torah and the Bible, the New Testament beatitudes, and the shields of the twelve Apostles. The carvings often take up and extend the theme of the windows nearest them.