The history behind Loyola's Alumni Memorial Chapel stained-glass windows
Illuminating Our Faith
With its extraordinary stained-glass windows, Alumni Memorial Chapel serves as the elegant home to Lessons and Carols, the signature celebration of the Advent and Christmas season at Loyola.
As distinctive as the structural elegance of the chapel is, with the vaulted arches that frame the interior and the gargoyles and other carvings on the exterior, the beauty and grace are augmented by those spectacular windows. The windows, designed and created by the D’Ascenzo Studios in Philadelphia, not only fill the chapel with varying hues of light throughout the day, they also bring to life the central figures, stories, and visual symbols of the Roman Catholic faith.
The Blessed Mother is shown wearing green as Our Lady of Evergreen in this illustration of the Assumption of Mary.
The D’Ascenzo Studios were led by muralist, painter, and stained-glass designer Nicola D’Ascenzo, who was born in Torricella, Italy, and immigrated to the United States in 1882. His stained-glass windows bring grace and artistry to private residences, churches, and businesses throughout the United States, including the Folger Shakespeare Library and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He created the windows for Alumni Memorial Chapel as donors funded each one.
The high side windows along the nave celebrate the lives of 16 Jesuits who have been canonized or beatified.
The chapel was designed by architects Gaudreau and Gaudreau to resemble a Gothic cathedral and built by noted contractor John McShain from Philadelphia. “Up until the present time, including the Jefferson Memorial, the Loyola chapel is the most beautiful building we have ever built,” McShain said at the time.
The church was created both as a memorial to those who lost their lives but also as a Marian shrine, dedicated to Our Lady of Evergreen who had protected so many members of the Loyola community during the war. The Rev. Edward B. Bunn, S.J., the president who launched the fundraising efforts for the chapel, wanted every member of the community to contribute to its creation. “I wanted each man to feel that it was his chapel, close to his heart, blazoning the deeds of his own fellow alumni who served their country and those who died for it,” he said.
Because this chapel is a shrine to the Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Evergreen, visitors see a window with that depiction alongside the representations of Mary in more widely known shrines such as Fatima, Lourdes, and Guadalupe.
St. Joseph is seen wearing purple to remind viewers that he is descended from the line of King David.
The beatified Jesuits have blue halos, while the canonized saints have golden ones.
The chapel features three images of St. Francis of Assisi, including this one of him delivering a sermon to birds.
When a church was first envisioned for the Evergreen campus, the plan was to name it for St. Francis Xavier, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola. As plans for the chapel came together, it was reimagined as Our Lady’s Chapel of Evergreen.
Scenes from the life of Christ are illustrated on the south side of the church, while windows portraying some of the Church’s most revered saints are on the north.
The families of the deceased soldiers in the Loyola community donated the windows of the Jesuit saints and blesseds, raising and giving the money as a tribute to their loved ones.
The Holy Spirit, depicted as a dove, is central to the rose window over the altar. The 12 windows coming forth from the dove represent the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Through the years, the stained-glass windows in Alumni Memorial Chapel have illuminated and enlivened the sacred space that serves as the heart of the Loyola University Maryland community. What a gift to generations of students, faculty, and others who have come to the building to reflect and pray.
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