Built in 1875 to serve the needs of the Sisters of St. Mary and later for the new Kemper Hall girls’ school, the Chapel was a simple prairie chapel until 1889 when the rood screen, designed by Kemper student Anna Upjohn, was added. In 1904 the chapel was expanded and the baptistery was added.
The oil painting in the reredos over the altar is “The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine.” It is a copy produced by Theo Dube’ in Paris in 1896. The original was painted in 1511 in the Convent of San Marco by the Florentine Renaissance painter, Fra Bartolommeo, and now hangs in the Louvre in Paris. The copy at Kemper was commissioned as a memorial to the founder of the order by Mother Superior Margaret Claire. The side panels were painted late in the 1890’s by Miss Edith Bacon, the art teacher at Kemper Hall, who also fashioned the Bayeaux Tapestry mural in the Simmons Auditorium.
Memorials and other gifts were responsible for the addition of brass panels, tabernacle and stained glass windows. The earliest stained glass in the Chapel came from Germany. The Angel and Mary windows were made in London in the 1890’s and the Nativity window is in the Tiffany style. The hand carved altar, reredos and pews came from Oberamergau, Germany in the 1890’s.
Every year many couples exchange their wedding vows before the altar where Kemper Hall students and the Sisters of St. Mary worshiped daily. The small side chapel, once known as the “Meditation Chapel,” was recently redecorated and serves as the bride’s dressing room. The groom’s dressing room now occupies the space that was the sacristy.
The atmosphere and wonderful acoustics in the Chapel continually attract musical groups and audiences alike, and many concerts are performed here.