SACRED HEART CHAPEL

Just over one hundred years ago a group of nuns, the Sisters of Divine Providence, left Alscace in France and came to Castroville, Texas, about 25 miles west of San Antonio. In 1896 they founded Our Lady of the Lake College. Today it has achieved University status and the sprawling complex sits on the far west side of San Antonio.

The focal point of this little bit of Alscace is Sacred Heart Coventual Chapel, known to the locals as "Lady of the Lake Chapel". It is a gothic gem, and the spire juts upward and can be seen for miles. Many have said that it has the best acoustics of any house of worship in the state of Texas. Constructed in 1926, the Congregation of the Divine Providence did not have sufficient funds for a tower clock, they just knew they wanted one. Provisions were made by the architect for four dials, and scuttle holes were placed in the floors for the eventual installation. The number of dials was to be reduced to three in the final outcome.

In December 1930 a ship left Bordeaux, bound for New Orleans. On board was a beautiful tower clock from the firm of J. & J. Lussault in Tiffauges. Five of the six bells required were on board. The sixth had cracked just after it was cast and would follow later.

The clock and bells were installed in March of 1931. The bells were blessed in a formal ceremony, or in the Roman Catholic Liturgy, they were "baptized".

The clock chimes the quarter hours with the refrain, "Oh, Maria." On the hour the clock plays the Ave Maria. The first recording of the third quarter chime, was made with the microphone in the clock case. The beat of the pin wheel escapement is audible as well as the remontoir. Listen for the rachet on the wind brake at the end. At one o'clock, the Ave Maria was recorded on the bell level.

The chapel was closed in January of 1996 for restoration, mostly to bring it up to code standards. It was totally rewired, a new air conditioning system was installed, oil paintings restored, and all stenciling was reworked. The seating was changed to adapt the chapel from a monastic mode to a more conventional form. The chapel's main use today is for weddings. It is also used by the University for religious services.

On January 6, 1997, the chapel was rededicated in a beautiful ceremony. Over 850 people jammed a room designed for 700 worshipers. A banquet was served, afterward for all invited guests in three dining rooms.

The clock was rebuilt in the summer of 1995. The firm of J. & J. Lussault is still in business today with the fourth generation at the helm. They were very helpful in sending the photocopies of the company ledgers which are reproduced here. They also informed me that they can make any part necessary for the clock. The congregation's archives revealed a wealth of information. Everything was saved...correspondence, bills of lading, blueprints, photographs, and the receipt for the payment of import duties.

For more information on the clock builders see, J & J. Lussault. The photographs of the chapel, the clock and the bells follow.

The auditorium of the chapel is open daily. The main doors are locked, but the doors to the right of the main steps are open. Access to the choir loft and clock is restricted.

For an overall view of the clock cabin Click here.


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