Friday, May 30, 2008

The Chapel at the U.S. Naval Academy

On the 24th of May I attended a wedding at the chapel on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. You can’t help but notice the dome of the chapel as you get closer to the campus. It’s large, impressive, and dominates the campus. Originally the chapel was built in the square form of a Greek cross, but the nave was extended to a Roman cross to meet the ever expanding population of the Academy.

I knew it would be a special place, but I did not know how special until I finally walked by the two massive anchors and through the bronze doors. The anchors are from the USS New York. The aisle is the stuff of any bride’s dreams. . Its long…..very long. It is an aisle made for a bridal train of tulle and silk. This image is taken from the doors looking down the aisle.

Once we were seated within the wooden pews I sat in wonder and tried to take everything in at once, but there really is too much to see at first. The first thing I noticed was the alter with the very large stained glass window depicting Christ walking on water.

Above the window I noticed the opening words to the Navy Hymn. During the wedding I attended the bride’s father sang a couple of verses….

Eternal Father strong to save,
Whose arm hath bent the restless wave.
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep.
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee.
For those in peril on the sea!

The Hutchings-Votey pipes for the organ are also very noticeable at the front as well as the many embellishments surrounding them. There are two sets of pipes that are visible.

Then my gaze focused on the stained glass window to my right called the Farragut Window. In the section above the balcony, the Archangel Michael is showing the way through the mine fields of Mobile Bay. Below Admiral Farragut is viewing the battle while lashed to the rigging of his flagship, USS Hartford. The rainbow is a sign of hope. At the top is Faragut’s motto, “God is my leader.”

At the very back of the chapel there hangs a very large votive ship model of a fifteenth century Flemish carrack to serve as a reminder that God protects those in peril from the sea.

Directly opposite the Farragut Window is the Sampson Window, which depicts the Angel of Peace. Below the balcony level (not seen in my picture) are images of Saints Peter and Andrew mending their nets and being called by Christ to be fishers of men.

Next my gaze went up and up and up to the interior of the dome.

Underneath the chapel rests the father of the American Navy, Captain John Paul Jones. Per an American Heritage article his remains were discovered in Paris in 1905 and were carried to Annapolis aboard a warship. Unfortunately Congress didn’t really want to fund any money for a projected crypt underneath the chapel and for six years the most revered figure in the American Navy was “stored” beneath the main staircase in Bancroft Hall. It wasn’t long after Jones began his rest under the stairwell that the midshipmen were soon singing a song about him: Everybody works but John Paul Jones! He lies around all day, body pickled in alcohol, on a permanent jag, they say. Finally Congress set aside the proper funding and today the crypt look like this:

Over at History Is Elementary I posted more about the man behind the Sampson window in my article titled Fess Up! Are You a Sampson Man or a Schley Man?
I found a rather out of focus video at YouTube which does shed a little more light on the interior of the chapel.

....and the wedding? See the pictures below. Wasn't the bride beautiful? If you click on the slideshow you can see larger still images along with the captions.

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