Immaculate Conception Seminary in Winter
watercolor on paper
Courtesy of the Walsh Gallery
IMMACULATE CONCEPTION CHAPEL
On May 21,1863, the cornerstone of the Immaculate Conception Chapel was laid by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley – the first Bishop of the Archdiocese of Newark – and nephew to Seton Hall University’s namesake, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. The chapel, designed by architect Jeremiah O’Rourke of O’Rourke & Moran, was dedicated seven years later in 1870. O’Rourke, who immigrated from Ireland, was known in America for his design of Roman Catholic churches and institutions such as hospitals and post offices. He designed the Cathedral Basilica of Newark, the fifth largest cathedral in North America and seat of the Archdiocese of Newark, as well as President’s Hall on the Seton Hall campus. Both the Immaculate Conception Chapel and President’s Hall are examples of Gothic Revival architecture, the preeminent style for Roman Catholic churches of the period which features pointed arches, narrow windows and elaborately carved details.
The Immaculate Conception Chapel’s interior design was completed by J.R. Lamb. Founded in 1857, J.R. Lamb Studios is the oldest continuously operating stained glass studio in the United States. Originally located in Greenwich Village, New York, the studio now operates from Midland Park, New Jersey. They continue to take new commissions as well as restoration work for historic stained glass panels. This section of plaster was preserved by the facilities staff during one of the many chapel restorations completed over the past 158 years. The section of decorated plaster is believed to have been painted by E. Erbe, an ‘artist in oil and fresco.’ The fragment depicts a red, blue and gold palette with organic motifs and geometric designs typical of the period. It may reveal some of Lamb’s original design for the interior, though we cannot be sure due to lack of documentation at the time and there have been numerous interior renovations since the chapel’s 1870 dedication.
This sketch by Robert Robbins for the proposed design of the side altar
dates to the 1963 chapel renovation. The color scheme from the section of fresco above was repeated in Robbins’ new design, with a blue and gold palette and red accents. This side altar retains J.R. Lamb’s distinguishing Gothic Revival style with the pointed arches, ornate tracery and trefoil (tri-lobed) details at the top of each arch. The trefoil is an architectural detail that is also symbolic of the Holy Trinity, fitting for a church design.
Today, the Immaculate Conception Chapel is still considered the heart of Seton Hall University. Masses are held daily and the chapel is a popular space for weddings. Since the chapel was built, it has been lovingly restored numerous times, the latest round of updates occurring in 2008. The chapel contains a shrine to the university’s namesake, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who remains a tangible presence throughout campus, particularly in this sacred space.
The Walsh Gallery has a considerable collection of fine art, artifacts and archeological specimens for use by faculty, students and researchers. For access to this or other objects in our collections, contact us at 973-275-2033 or email@example.com to make a research appointment.