Travel: Plan a vacation around these 3 chapels

No, you don’t need to leave the country this summer to visit a notable church.

In fact, an entire family-friendly summer vacation can be planned around a visit to a notable or historically significant house of worship.

Listed in no particular order, the following three chapels are located in destinations that have plenty of things to do and see beyond the stained-glass windows.

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St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, near Estes Park, Colorado.
St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, near Estes Park, Colorado. | Dennis Lennox

Rocky Mountain National Park

Just outside the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park is St. Catherine of Siena Chapel.

It sits atop a rocky crag in the shadow of Mt. Meeker, which at 13,916 feet, is the second-highest summit in the national park. The closest town, Estes Park, is about 20 minutes away by car.

Built in the mid-1930s for the spiritual needs of Camp Malo, a Roman Catholic retreat, architect Jacques Benedict designed a traditional cruciform-shaped chapel heavily influenced by the styles of rustic and Romanesque revival.

The chapel’s claim to fame, at least within Roman Catholic circles, is a 1993 visit by then-Pope (and later St.) John Paul II. 

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel is open for visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

The Chapel of St. Joan of Arc in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Chapel of St. Joan of Arc in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. | Dennis Lennox


A rebuilt Gothic chapel dedicated to St. Joan of Arc stands on the campus of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Dating to the early 15th century, the chapel, which was originally dedicated to St. Martin of Seyssuel, stood in the French town of Chasse-sur-Rhône. That changed in 1927, when it was acquired by railroad heiress Gertrude Hill Gavin and relocated to her estate on Long Island in New York. Following a 1962 sale of the estate and subsequent fire, the chapel was gifted to Marquette University.

Deconstructed stone-by-stone — all 30 tons — for a second time, it was shipped to the Rust Belt city of Milwaukee and reassembled at the Jesuit college.

Despite multiple restorations, reconstructions and alterations, the St. Joan of Arc Chapel feels authentically medieval. The 13th century altar, with its post-Vatican II orientation, is a rare sign of modernity. 

The Chapel of St. Joan of Arc is free to visit. Opening hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Garrett Memorial Chapel overlooks Keuka Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes.
Garrett Memorial Chapel overlooks Keuka Lake, one of New York’s Finger Lakes. | Dennis Lennox

New York’s Finger Lakes

Perched above Keuka Lake, one of the 11 glacial lakes that form New York’s Finger Lakes, is Garrett Memorial Chapel. While it might look medieval, it isn’t.

Commissioned by Paul and Evelyn Garrett in memory of a son who died of tuberculosis, the granite chapel was designed by architect Mortimer Freehof in a Norman Gothic revival style and built between 1930 and 1931. The interior features 10 stained-glass windows depicting the life and ministry of Christ by Frederick Wilson, the one-time head of ecclesiastical art at Tiffany Studios.

Garrett Memorial Chapel is open every Tuesday and Thursday in the summer between 1 and 4 p.m. The Sunday service at 9 a.m., which starts today and runs through Sept. 2, features guest Episcopalian, Presbyterian and Lutheran clergy.

Dennis Lennox writes a travel column for The Christian Post.

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