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Duke Chapel: A Unique Christian Church & A Historical Landmark

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Tourist Attractions: Duke Chapel, Durham, A Historical Landmark

Duke Chapel is a stunning church located on Duke University’s Durham campus. It is the highest building in Durham County. It is a historic landmark, a unique Christian church, a magnificent structure both in design and rich in ministry built with a uniquely interdenominational purpose and character. 

Duke Chapel serves as a beacon for grace on campus and within the community. It is known for inspiring worship and music, and by its calling to walk alongside people of all faiths. 

Duke Chapel

All are welcome and encouraged to join in worship, education, dialogue, service, and prayer.

The Chapel was completed in 1935 and costed $2.3million. It was dedicated to the University of West Campus in Commencement.

Duke Chapel hosts many of Duke Performances’ large choral concerts; the acoustics in the transepts and the crossing are particularly excellent.

Architecture & Design:

Built between 1930 and 1935 in the neo-Gothic English style, Duke Chapel was the first building planned for the new West Campus, but the last to be completed. Its chief designer was African American architect Julian F. Abele, who also led the design of West Campus.

The Chapel was built in Collegiate Gothic style. It can hold approximately 1,800 people and is 210 feet (64 m) tall. The chapel features Gothic architecture and stonework.

Duke Chapel

The Chapel houses three organs and a bell tower that houses a 50-bell carol.

The largest bell in the tower weighs 11,200 pounds. To access the top of the tower, a 239-step staircase is used. All other graves are buried in the crypt under the chapel.

Stained Glass Windows:

The Chapel’s most prominent feature is the stained glass windows. They show scenes from the Bible, as well as some of the most important people in the church’s past. These depict the Magi’s journey to Bethlehem as well as the creation of Adam and Jesus’ transfiguration.

Duke Chapel

The windows show scenes and characters from Bible. The large transept windows and the altar window both display images from the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

Over a three year period, 15 artists and craftsmen created and built the 77 Chapel windows. These windows are made from more than one million pieces glass imported from England to France and Belgium.

Chancel :

The chancel at Duke Chapel houses the altar, the stalls, and the pulpit. The niches in the choir stalls are filled with patriarchs and apostles.

Duke Chapel

Other religious figures, carved in oak and limewood, can be found behind the altar. The chancel’s south and north walls have scenes from the Passion.


The original organ at Duke Chapel, constructed in 1932, is the Kathleen McClendon Organ. It is housed behind oak screens in two chambers. This organ was the last major instrument produced by the Aeolian Organ Company. 

The 6,900 pipes can be controlled by four manual keyboards as well as a pedal keyboard. The Benjamin N. Duke Memorial Organ constructed in 18th-century styles of French and Dutch organs was dedicated by the Dutch Flentrop Company.


Duke University has ordered the restoration of its stained glass windows as part of a multiyear project. This work will strengthen the frames of two of the largest windows in the chapel. The scope of the project also includes minor improvements.

FAQs About Duke Chapel, Durham

Why is it called a Chapel instead of a church?

The earliest Christian places for worship were called chapels. However, they were not designated buildings. They were simply a chamber within a building . Larger churches often had several secondary altars that, if they were in a separate space, were called chapels.

What religion is practiced at Duke Chapel?

It is an ecumenical Christian Chapel and the heart of Duke’s religion. It also has connections to The United Methodist Church.

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