New Dominican chapel in Edinburgh, Scotland

Subtitle: 
First Dominican altar dedicated since the Reformation
Picture: 
Cardinal O'Brien laying the Altar Stone
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In Acts 20:9, St Paul recounts how in Troas a man fell out of the window when he was preaching; it must have been a very full room! Sometimes, the Dominican chaplains of St Albert's Catholic Chaplaincy in Edinburgh have feared a reprise of this experience because their first-floor chapel had been filled to capacity, with standing room only. Often students were seen standing on the stairs outside the chapel, and the doors were left open so they could hear the sermon!

So, plans began a few years ago to build a larger chapel but in the same location which is next to the main library of Edinburgh University. Since 1931 the Dominican-run Catholic Chaplaincy in Edinburgh has served the University of Edinburgh, and it now also serves Edinburgh Napier and Queen Margaret Universities.

Last month the Chaplaincy moved into their new chapel which is built in the garden of their Priory of St Albert the Great, located at 24 George Square. This new chapel is the first Dominican chapel to be built in Scotland since the Reformation, and on the feast of the Assumption 2012, Keith Patrick Cardinal O’Brien came to bless the chapel and dedicate the 3.5 tonne stone Altar. This date was fitting because the Order’s first priory in Edinburgh, established in 1230, had been the Priory of the Assumption.

The new chapel is purpose-built and its location in the garden makes it more visible and easily accessible to the disabled and infirm. It is also larger, to accommodate the ever-increasing numbers of students and staff who attend Mass and the Divine Office. The new chapel is a beautiful and prayerful space with hand-tooled stonework, a ribbed oak ceiling and oak floor, a baldachino like structure framing the Altar and Crucifix, and a glass apsidal wall with a view of the garden, signifying our Dominican openness to the goodness of God's creation. In many ways the chapel is a 21st-century interpretation of a medieval Dominican church. Like those, this is essentially a single-roomed preaching hall with plain glass (for the early General Chapters of the Order had forbidden stained glass because of their costliness).

The project represents a substantial investment by the English Province of the Order in their mission in Edinburgh, and it marks their confidence in the future of university chaplaincy work. The whole community hopes that this garden chapel will invigorate their outreach to the city, and contribute to the New Evangelization.

Fundraising from the congregation and former students of the chaplaincy proceeded under the name of 'Keeping the Door Open (KTDO). Over £250,000 has been raised locally. The overall project cost is in excess of £1,000,000 so donations will still be warmly welcomed through http://keepingthedooropen.op.org

Some photos of the new chapel can be found on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KTDOEdinburgh