Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Roman Catholic chapel located on the southeast edge of Sedona, Arizona. This striking structure is built right into the side of a fine example of one of Sedona’s world-famous red-rock buttes. The red-rock cliffside into which Chapel of the Holy Cross is built sits some 1,000 feet high, while the Chapel itself rises another 250 or so feet into the air. Taken together, it’s a magnificent setting for a building, providing visitors with tremendous views in a number of directions.
Chapel of the Holy Cross History and Background
The existence of Chapel of the Holy Cross today can be attributed in no small part to the drive and zeal of one Marguerite Brunswig Staude. Staude, a wealthy heiress who grew up in the Sedona area, was at different times in her life a rancher, artist, and philanthropist. The origin of her dream to be build what would someday become known as Chapel of the Holy Cross can be traced to the first time she witnessed New York’s iconic Empire State Building in 1932. Beholding that architectural feat, she had a vision of an uber-contemporary, skyscraper-like structure that was also a church.
For years she worked closely with the architect Lloyd Wright, son of the eminent architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to make her vision a reality. For years the pair considered and attempted to build such a structure in places as far-flung and disparate as Los Angeles and Budapest. As the failures mounted, and World War II ran its course, the pair drifted apart and the project wasn’t realized. However, by the 1950s Staude remained undeterred, and in a burst of new inspiration she decided to build her dream structure in Sedona, near where she grew up. She hired the San Francisco-based architectural firm of Anshen & Allen to execute her plans. Ground broke on the Chapel in 1955, and some 18 months later, in the spring of 1957, Staude’s Chapel of the Holy Cross opened its doors.
What’s at the Chapel of the Holy Cross
Visitors to Chapel of the Holy Cross will likely be struck first and foremost by the Chapel’s stunning setting. Situated high on a red-rock butte, Chapel of the Holy Cross seems as if it is emerging from the middle of two sizable red rocks—or as if it a large rock got wedged between two other red rocks. Regardless of how one wants to characterize their initial sighting of the structure, Chapel of the Holy Cross makes quite the first impression.
The front of the Chapel is characterized by its massive cross design. Inside, visitors will note the simplicity of the space: there are very few pews found here, and nothing much in the way of decoration or color, save for the large array of bright red devotion candles flickering away. The real standout features of the interior of the Chapel are its windows, which let in tremendous light and provide stellar views of the surrounding red rocks.
The place where Chapel of the Holy Cross stands today is part of the Coconino National Forest, operated and protected by the United States Forest Service. In fact, Staude had to receive a special permit from the government in order to build her structure on this publicly held land. Nearby you’ll find a great number of other popular Sedona-area attractions, including Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Broken Arrow Trail, Red Rock Scenic Byway, and many, many more. Plenty of dining and Sedona lodging options are to be found just down the road, too.
Tips for Visiting the Chapel of the Holy Cross
- Chapel of the Holy Cross is open every day of the week between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm. Admission is free, but donations to the local parish are accepted.
- Chapel of the Holy Cross is a very popular attraction. As a result, it can get quite crowded with visitors throughout the day, even to the point where it’s parking lot gets completely full. If you desire the smoothest, least-crowded Chapel experience, your best bet is to go as early in the day as possible.
- While there can be no doubt that an air of contemplative spirituality pervades Chapel of the Holy Cross, and many visitors report feeling a special kind of peace while within its walls and on its grounds, today the Chapel is more of a tourist attraction than a fully functioning place of worship. However, if you would like to attend an actual service on site here, make sure to check out the Chapel’s Taize Prayer Service, which takes place every Monday evening at 5:00pm.