Rebuilding a house of worship with natural stone
The Chapel of the Holy Cross on the campus of Jesuit High School in Tampa, FL, is now housed in a beautiful new building that is adorned with a host of natural stone varieties, including Indiana limestone, Pennsylvania Bluestone and Italian marble.
Originally founded in 1899 as Sacred Heart College by the Jesuit priests of the Sacred Heart Church, Jesuit High School in Tampa, FL, took its name in 1940 and has continued to teach young high school men throughout the decades. At the heart of the campus is the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was recently rebuilt with an assortment of natural stone – adding to its beauty and prominence in the community.
“It was interesting because our client initially wanted to renovate and enlarge what they had – a chapel built in 1962,” explained Thomas Stroka of Duncan G. Stroik Architect LLC in South Bend, IN. “We offered to also include a conceptual design for a new building. It turned out the new building was more cost-effective than the fancy renovation.”
Stroka explained that the chapel was always at the center of the campus and the new construction maintained that location. “It is used for daily convocations and services for the entire student body,” he said. “Since it is a consecrated object, the previous marble altar was buried directly under the new altar,” said the architect. “We design churches all over the country, but this was the first centralized scheme we have done. It’s an octagonal space reminiscent of the 1962 chapel. Father Richard Hermes, S.J., the president of the school, had a vision for a new chapel that would embody the Jesuit tradition of architecture.”
The entrance to the church is a 24-foot-tall portico with columns made of Indiana limestone. The 6-foot-tall entablature, complete with triglyphs and metopes, has a carved inscription with gold leaf lettering stating: “AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM.” The center architrave is a single piece of limestone spanning 13 feet, 8 inches. The hand-carved limestone escutcheon over the front entrance measures 6 feet tall and contains the monogram “IHS,” symbolizing the name Jesus surrounded by a laurel wreath and angel. The limestone was supplied and carved by Bybee Stone Co. Inc. of Ellettsville, IN, and installed by Masonry Builders Inc. of Tampa, FL.
“For the limestone carving, we did review and make field visits – at least two to Bybee’s facility,” said Stroka. “The advantage for us was we could drop down to Bybee and review any details that we discussed [since they were close by.] We went over potential jointing issues and shop tickets while the pieces were being fabricated. We would go over the variegation and review the quality and dimensions. We looked for any damaged stone. We also took photos for the contractor in Florida.”
The Bluestone paving at the entrance of the portico features 6-inch-thick treads with a thermal finish, which were supplied by Johnson & Sons Stone Works in Montrose, PA. “There were two reasons we chose the thermal finish,” explained Stroka. “First, it provides slip resistance on rainy days and the thermal finish darkens a little and contrasts better with the limestone. It looks like a deeper blue.”
Inside the chapel, a variety of stone was selected for the architectural elements. “We love using stone in our projects,” said Stroka. “We love to specify natural stone. We have never specified cast stone because our aim as a classical architecture firm is durable and timeless architectural buildings. Using natural stone can help us with that.
“We drew everything by hand with the exception of the floor plans,” the architect went on to say. “We were also in consultation with the marble supplier. He sat down during the design phase and went through drawings and images. We discussed marble types, and the pros and cons of each.”
Stroka explained that Father Hermes, S.J. and Chris Lucas, director of institutional planning, were very involved in the design meetings. “We had regular design milestone meetings and phone calls,” he said. “We went to Italy to review the marble fabrication process and to view the progress of the sculptures and the bas-relief Stations of the Cross.”
While the flooring of the nave, which is the central area of the church, is made of porcelain tile, 1,200 square feet of thick-set marble, including Nero Marquina, Rosso Verona and Bianco Carrara, was used for the sanctuary in a unique pattern. The altar is composed of Arabescato, Rosso Francia, Carrara, Breccia Violetta and Giallo Reale marble -- supplied by Roberto Pagliari Stone Consulting and carved by Paolo Costa & Co. in Carrara, Italy. The installation was done by Booms Stone Company of Redford Charters Twp., MI.
“The Arabescato was important to Duncan Stroik for the beautiful veining,” explained Stroka, when talking about the free-standing altar. “While the front face is a more austere block, the marble veining is the beauty and Pagliari perfectly matched the base and mensa veining so the altar appears as a monolithic block. The altar measures 3 x7 feet.”
The columns in the sanctuary are made of Rosso Francia marble. “The red columns were important to Father Hermes to connect to the symbolism of the Savior’s sacrifice,” said Stroka. “It pops and is brilliant and legible from afar.”
While in the shop in Italy, Stroka explained that they studied a dry layout of the marble pieces. “We were looking for the veining direction of the pieces and checking the dimensions and the carved details,” he said.
According to Stroka, the design of the new Chapel of the Holy Cross took two years to complete and an additional two years for construction. It has won two awards, including the Palladio Award from Traditional Building, and the Pinnacle Award from the Natural Stone Institute. “In Tampa, it’s one of the most traditional buildings of this grandeur in a half-century,” he said.
The Rite of Dedication for Jesuit High School’s new Chapel of the Holy Cross was held on August 7, 2018, and all six marble altars were anointed and incensed so they can be used forever. More than 800 students celebrated Mass in their new spiritual home on Friday morning, September 14, 2018.
Chapel of the Holy Cross Jesuit High School
Architect: Duncan G. Stroik Architect LLC of South Bend, IN