We visited Thorncrown Chapel while the leaves were turning. Nestled in the Ozarks just outside Eureka Springs, Thorncrown Chapel is one of the most stunning and iconic structures in Arkansas. Today, I’m bringing it to you.
Arkansas’s own brilliant architect, E. Fay Jones, designed Thorncrown Chapel using native woodland elements. The 48-foot tall structure consists of 425 windows totaling over 6,000 square feet of glass. So much glass brings the surrounding Ozark forest inside.
Inside your mind and heart.
Because of the marvel of the design, Thorncrown Chapel never looks the same inside or out. Hour to hour, day to day, season to season, surrounding nature is an important part of the overall experience.
Iconic and Peaceful
I’m no architect. I know nothing much about design. But I do know how the space stirs my soul when I sit on a wooden pew and take in the glorious woods. I step inside and find a new world.
Jones described Thorncrown Chapel as “a place to think your best thoughts.”
Overhead, diamond-shaped pine trusses suggest the crown of thorns. The ever-changing light casts compelling patterns along every surface. Hand-rubbed gray stain blends the pine trusses with outside tree bark.
My burning question—how do the Thorncrown caretakers keep the soaring windows so sparkling clean?
Side lanterns mimic trees.
I imagine the place at night when moonlight and starlight are the only visitors.
Free for All
Non-denominational Christian Sunday Services are held weekly. And, as you might imagine, this is a popular spot for weddings.
Meditate on These Things
Thorncrown Chapel comes from humble beginnings. Retired teacher, Jim Reed (a native of Pine Bluff, Ar), purchased the subject land in the 1970s with plans to build his retirement cabin. Reed began to notice how tourists, drawn by his stunning view of the Ozarks, constantly stopped along the highway and on his driveway, and even picnicked on his land. Realizing he owned a special spot just outside Eureka Springs, he became inspired to build a chapel in the woods, a place for traveling folks to stop and rest. He contacted Fay Jones, who was then Dean of the University of Arkansas School of Architecture. Reed secured donations to cover the modest construction cost of $200,000 via a letter-writing campaign.
The chapel opened in 1980. Thorncrown Chapel won the AIA Design of the Year Award in 1981, the highly regarded AIA 25 Year Award, and was recently designated #4 on the top buildings of the 20th century!
If you find yourself in Northwest Arkansas, do yourself a favor and sit a spell inside this little chapel in the woods. It will do your soul good.
I would love to visit after a deep snowfall. I imagine the whole area would be very Narnia-ish.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.