In 1935, Duke Chapel was dedicated, and over the course of the past eighty-one years, it has witnessed dramatic changes both at Duke University and in our world. As preachers, visionaries, leaders, teachers, and students made their way through the Chapel, this original cross sat at the front of the Chapel. From there, this cross witnessed the Chapel welcome nearly every class of new students to the Duke family and often celebrate the culmination of their education through graduation week ceremonies. It saw the Chapel serve as backdrop to protests, celebrate peace at the conclusion of wars, and provide a place of refuge in times of strife.
Over the past eight decades, Duke Chapel has celebrated thousands of services, welcomed millions of guests, and served as the preeminent icon for the university. Duke Chapel represents many things to many different people. Its varied roles, constituencies, and history allowed it to cultivate an atmosphere that welcomed world-renowned speakers and musicians while also providing space for students, faculty, staff, community members, and visitors to express their hopes, fears, joys, sorrows, and frustrations.
The story of Duke Chapel is not just the story of a building. It represents the story of a community and of the richly diverse group of people who have helped to shape the Chapel’s legacy—and who will ultimately shape its future.
On display in the Jerry and Bruce Chappell Family Gallery
March 11 – June 19, 2016
Rubenstein Library, Duke University
Durham, North Carolina