Sacred Sedona: Chapel of the Holy Cross

Photo by Mike Koopsen

The vast expanse of the desert landscape that surrounds Sedona beckons visitors with an almost supernatural silence. Red rock spires jut majestically toward evening crimson skies, floating gracefully over the chiseled buttes and valleys below. The dramatic vistas and colorful panorama rich with deep purples, bright yellows and vivid oranges cast an almost ethereal calm over the valley and for many the phrase “God’s Country” has no more appropriate locale. Certainly that was the case for Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a mid-century architect and sculptor who envisioned a lasting monument rising from the red rocks of Sedona like the risen Christ toward the heavens.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross was completed in 1956 and is considered Staudes’ masterpiece. Located on land in the Coconino National Forest, it took nearly 20 years of planning, congressional intervention for a special use permit, and 18 months of construction in order to build what today stands as one of Sedona’s premier attractions for travelers of all faiths.

In true architectural form, Staude created an unpretentious design with lasting dramatic impact. In her early career Staude had been a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, and her choice of natural materials and subtle insertion into the landscape mimics Wright’s own Arizona wonder, Taliesin West. At the center of the Chapel’s beauty are the exterior concrete spires that rise 250 feet from the rock, yet blend superbly into the sandstone so all that is visible is the 90 foot cross formation facing approaching travelers on southbound Highway 179. Once visitors turn onto Chapel Road, the structure becomes nearly invisible again as it fades effortlessly into the butte wall.

The interior of the Chapel is again a masterpiece of simplicity. Seated before the cross,
visitors can gaze through stained glass windows at the valley beyond, which during the
dramatic hours of sunrise and sunset creates images and color displays worthy of any
museum. It is here that visitors, even those that come with no religious affiliation or spiritual
connection, find the greatest sense of peace and wonder. Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock
are both visible from the Chapel, and contribute to the feeling of breathtaking natural grandeur
experienced by visitors.

The exterior grounds are equally as serene. Paths around the Chapel meander and pause in front of breathtaking views and create the perfect setting for connecting with nature or simply that inner voice that speaks only when the outside world is silent. Many believe the Chapel is home to its own vortex, centering spiritual connection and deepening personal reflection.

Officially belonging to St. John Vianney Parish and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, the Chapel is open seven days a week for visitation and prayer, spiritual reflection or even quiet communion with the Creator. Although no formal parish liturgies are held at the Chapel, there is a weekly Taize prayer service on Mondays at 5:00 p.m. With the Taize movement’s focus on ecumenism and bringing together all faiths, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a perfect symbol of unity, simplicity and peace.

The Chapel also hosts a complete gift shop, where visitors can purchase unique religious articles such as crosses, rosaries, paintings and jewelry made by local artisans. Housed in lower level rooms once used by parish priests residing full time on the Chapel grounds, the shop compliments visitors experiences at the Chapel without interfering with the quiet calm found inside the building or the surrounding pathways.

Travelers can reach the Chapel of the Holy Cross by traveling south on Highway 179. Turn left on Chapel Road and proceed to visitor’s parking at the end of the road. The Chapel is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Good Friday and Easter.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is included on the Silver Spur
Magical Day in Sedona Tour.