Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Sodality Chapel

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Institution Name: Spring Hill College
Original/Historic Place Name: Sodality Chapel
Location on Campus: Near Jesuit Cemetery
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1850original construction Unknown
1987relocation Unknown
2000-2001restoration Kearly, Douglas
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: brick
Walls: wood (siding)
Roof: slate
ca. 1850-present (2007)chapel (once a meeting place for members of the Sodality, currently a place of worship)

Significance: culture, history, religion
Landmark designation:
National RegisterSodality Chapel (1984)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

The oldest building on the campus built by the college (the slightly older Stewartfield was originally a private home), the Sodality Chapel was built in 1850 by students under the supervision of the first Jesuit president, Francis Gautrelet, S.J. He had brought the notion of "Sodality" from France. The name was given to a group of students (all male in those days) who dedicated themselves to improvement of virtue and study habits under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Architecturally the chapel is thought to have been an imitation of some small French rural churches. It is historically important because one of the students who met and worshipped there and possibly worked on its construction was Paul Morphy (A.B. 1854; M.A. 1855) who shortly after he left Spring Hill College became an international celebrity-still deeply respected-in the world of chess. He had been prefect (president) of the sodality in 1853.

This beautifully simple building is still in daily use for worship. Father President usually says mass there each weekday morning, a liturgy attended by students and a group of neighboring people. It was those local people who raised funds for the restoration of the building in 2000-2001. Work was under the direction of Douglas Kearley, a Mobile architect. The attempt was to restore it to its original simplicity, two earlier restorations having made it rather elaborate on the inside. It is in excellent condition.

It was moved from its original location south of the Administration Building in 1987 to its present location in the Peace Garden next to the Jesuit Cemetery.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Boyle, Charles J., ed. Twice Remembered Moments in the History of Spring Hill College. Mobile, AL: Friends of the Spring Hill College Library, 1993.

Boyle, Charles J. A Pelican's Eye View: The History of the Spring Hill College Campus. Pictorial pamphlet. Mobile, AL: Spring Hill College, 1999.

Floyd, Katherine. Spring Hill College. Historic American Buildings Survey report and photographs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1936.

Gould, Elizabeth B., and Ellen Mertins. Sodality Chapel [Spring Hill College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1984.

Kenny, Michael, Catholic Culture in Alabama (also published under the title The Torch on the Hill). New York: America Press, 1931.

Russel, E. W. Sodality Chapel [Spring Hill College]. Historic American Buildings Survey photographs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1935.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections
Government Offices

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