An effort is underway to preserve one of the oldest structures in the U-S and the oldest in Milwaukee; it’s a 15th century gothic chapel that sits in the heart of the Marquette Campus.
The St. Joan of Arc Chapel was originally built in the early 1400’s in the village of Chasse in France’s Rhone Valley.
Associate professor of history at Marquette University Father Michael Maher says at the chapel’s inception it was likely a burial chapel for a knight.
“It was probably what we call an oratory, a location where people could go to pray and they were usually sponsored by wealthy donors,” Maher said.
The Hundred Years’ War was happening around the same time period; a lengthy dynastic rivalry between France and England.
During a key attack at the end of the war, Joan of Arc went into battle where the French defeated the English. That’s where the historic chapel comes into play.
“Before she went into the Battle of Orleans, it was reputed that she stopped in this chapel and prayed. One of the local legends is that she knelt down and kissed the stone. People say they refer to this as the cold stone that Joan of Arc kissed but this is where she prayed and perhaps received further inspiration to fight at the Battle of Orleans,” said Maher.
Joan of Arc is credited with rallying the troops to achieve the major victory. She was later captured and burned at the stake.
The chapel was used as a place of prayer until the French Revolution.
In the 1920’s, a French architect recorded the ruins. They were bought and sent to a wealthy woman who lived on Long Island, New York. The Chapel once again exchanged hands in 1962 to former President of J.I Case Company, Marc Rojtman and his wife Lillian.
The Rojtman’s later gifted the chapel to Marquette University. The chapel was reconstructed in 1965.
Earlier this year, the university received a $1 million dollar gift from the Slagge Family Foundation, establishing an endowment devoted to preserving the beloved chapel.
Hear more about the chapel and how the university will preserve the beloved piece of history for future generations by clicking on the audio player above.