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Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
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  • Monument Name

    Duke Chapel Portal, Durham

  • Type

    Architectural Sculpture

  • Subjects

    Historic Political Figures

    Historic Military Figures

    Historic Religious Figures

  • Creator

    Julian Abele, Architect

  • City

    Durham

  • County

    Durham

  • Description

    The entrance to Duke Chapel incorporates ten statues into the facade. Visitors walk in under Thomas Coke, Francis Asbury, and George Whitfield. The left side of the portal contains Girolamo Savonarola, Martin Luther, and John Wycliffe. Across from them, on the right, Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee stand next to Sidney Lanier. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, is the tenth statue in the entrance to Duke Chapel and stands on the inner arch above the doors to the chapel. These life-size statues stand about three feet off the ground.

  • Custodian

    Duke University, Friends of Duke Chapel

  • Dedication Date

    June 2, 1935

  • Decade

    1930s

  • Geographic Coordinates

    36.001650 , -78.939770 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      "DUKE UNIVERSITY DEDICATES CHAPEL: Dean Hough of Drew Seminary and Other Notables Are Among Speakers," New York Times (New York, NY), Jun 03, 13.

      "Portal" Duke University Chapel (accessed February 17, 2014). Link

      Cheek, Richard. The Chapel, Duke University (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Stores, 1986).

  • Public Site

    Yes

  • Materials & Techniques

    Indiana Limestone

  • Sponsors

    Duke University

  • Monument Cost

    The construction of the entire chapel cost $2.3 million.

  • Monument Dedication and Unveiling

    The Chapel opened its doors for the university's commencement in 1932 and was officially dedicated June 2, 1935.

  • Subject Notes

    The statues marking the entrance to Duke University Chapel are a mixture of important religious figures and individuals important to the culture of the American South. Wesley, Asbury, and Coke were all prominent figures in the Methodist Church and although non-denominational, Duke Chapel nevertheless displays heavy Methodist influences because the Duke family was Methodist. John Wesley, whose statue stands above the doors of the Chapel, was the founder of the Methodist Church. Whitefield was a member of the Anglican Church, but joined the Wesley brothers on their mission to Georgia. Savonarola, a Dominican friar in Renaissance Florence, and Wycliffe, an English theologian during the 14th century, spoke out against various aspects of the Catholic Church. Luther split from the Catholic Church to launch the Protestant Reformation. Alongside these religious figures stand figures significant to the history of the American South. Thomas Jefferson was a founder of the Democratic Party and the third president of the United States. Confederate General Robert E. Lee was held up by many white southerners as the epitome of a white southern gentleman. Lanier was the most distinguished southern poet of the nineteenth century and died in North Carolina.

  • Location

    The portal forms the entrance to the chapel, on the southeast face of the building. It faces Chapel Drive and a large, grassy quadrangle. To the north of the entrance (one's right as they enter the building), is located the Divinity School.

  • Landscape

    In front of the chapel are three wide stone pathways—one passing in front of the chapel and two leading to the chapel. The areas between these pathways are grass-covered but otherwise unadorned.

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