A Visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona
We arrived in Sedona around 6pm on a Friday. We left Las Vegas at noon in a rental car, making the four or so hour drive in six, with a little detour via Route 66…
Before I visited Sedona, I’d never heard of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. When we arrived, my husband asked the gentleman at our hotel check in what we should go see that was close, and would fill in an hour or two. He suggested the Chapel, it was close and a popular place to visit.
A Roman Catholic chapel built into the buttes of Sedona, run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, and is a part of St. John Vianney Parish in Sedona. I said, Ok, let’s go!
The next day we had a Pink Jeep Tour booked for 4pm, and plans to sightsee around town until then. We spent the morning ducking in and out of various shops and buying a few souvenirs. We enjoyed a quick lunch at 89Agave Cantina, then jumped in the car and headed to the Chapel.
From the Orchards Inn, driving time is 5-20 minutes. Broad, but very dependent on the traffic!
The Chapel was inspired and commissioned by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Beinswig Staude (a student of Frank Lloyd Wright). She’d originally planned to build a Chapel in Hungary but had to give up those plans due to the outbreak of war.
Richard Hein was project architect and the design executed by architect August K Strotz.
The Chapel was built on Coconino National Forest Land and took 18 months to build at a cost of US$300,000. (Marguerite Beinswig Staude actually paid to build it)
It was completed in 1956, and in the sculptor’s words, “though catholic in faith, as a work of art the Chapel has a universal appeal. Its doors will ever be open to one and all, regardless of creed, that God may come to life in the souls of all men and be a living reality. “
In 2007, Arizonans voted it one of the Seven Man-made Wonders of Arizona. It’s open 9-5 daily, and very busy.
Afternoon is not the best time to visit. Busy, busy and busy. Apparently morning is the best time, as it’s not nearly as busy.
Make your way up the long and somewhat narrow, but paved driveway, watching for a place to pull in and park (45 total spots). At the top is a turnaround and a few handicap parking spots.
On a busy day, you work your way to the top and hope for a spot. You reach the top, turn around and repeat the search on the way back down. Repeat this process until a spot opens up and you can duck in.
My husband dropped myself and our two kids off at the top, and then went to find a spot.
They run golf carts for those needing assistance and who’ve parked below. On a particularly busy day, I’d park below and just walk up. By the time you loop around a few times you could already be up there. And starting at the bottom does offer some good photo opportunities as you make your way up to the Chapel.
An upward winding ramp brings you to Chapel level. A large terrace area with an approximate two foot high wall ledge doubles as a barrier and an unofficial seat.
Spectacular! As you stand just outside the chapel, breathtaking views surround you. Every direction has a typical Sedona feel, red rocks, cliffs, blue sky and some possible white cloud. You can wander around taking in the scenery at your leisure.
The Chapel doors are open to welcome you in, of course. As you enter you fall quiet, as you would entering any church or place of reverence. Burning candles welcome you in, you can light one yourself if you choose (they ask a small charge of $1 and credit cards are accepted).
There are several rows of benches for sitting. Nearly the entire front wall of the Chapel is windows, revealing the Sedona landscape beyond.
Most impressive of all is the glorious crucifix, the bronze Christ of The Holy Cross. Literally a work of art, this very new addition to the chapel in April, 2018, replaced the original monstrosity (a harsh word I know) that was years earlier destroyed.
I came across a picture on the Chapel’s website of the original, and I personally didn’t care for that artist’s rendering of Christ. (Nor did others apparently) It had a very alien appearance, which I do not associate well with faith. It seemed out of place.
I’m not Catholic, and prefer a simpler cross myself, but the beauty and workmanship is undeniable. The sculptor, James Muir, who created the new life size bronze crucifix, is not Catholic either though very strong in faith. He actually refused at first, until after many conversations with the local Priest and he was persuaded to take on the job.
Quite an interesting story really. If you search for the Chapel of the Holy Cross online you’ll find the usual Wikipedia information and a wealth of other sites where you can read various articles on the history and how it came to be. Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross website for any info about the Chapel and visiting.
On site there is a gift shop, down below, which I did not visit. We spent about a half hour at the Chapel, which was sufficient to take in the wonderful views and scenery and the Chapel itself. Washroom facilities exist according to the website but I never searched for them. They have porto-potties set up at the bottom of the hill.
You may be wondering, does it serve any purpose other than for visiting tourists? Yes! They do hold weddings at the Chapel, the months and times are limited…
There is also a Taize Prayer every Monday evening.
How to visit
Driving here is easy if you have a car, just be patient and prepared to do the circling game to get parking. If you’re staying right in town you’ll be anywhere from 5-20 minutes away depending on traffic.
Another great option if you’re staying in town is to take a Sedona Trolley tour. There are a couple of options, but the Chapel of the Holy Cross tour is about an hour long, allowing you 15 minutes at the Chapel itself. There is a charge for the Sedona Trolley, of course.
All in all, a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a great, free, introduction to the area. You learn a bit of local history and experience some up close scenic views of the red rocks. And to top it off, you get to view a wonderful piece of bronze art by a very talented local sculptor.