Thorncrown Chapel

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Thorncrown Chapel
Thorncrown Chapel.jpg
USA Arkansas location map.svg
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Location in Arkansas
Usa edcp location map.svg
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Location in United States
Nearest city Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Coordinates 36°24′59″N93°46′22″W / 36.41639°N 93.77278°W / 36.41639; -93.77278
Area7.6 acres (3.1 ha)
Built1980 (1980)
Architect E. Fay Jones
Architectural styleModern
MPS Arkansas Designs of E. Fay Jones MPS AD
NRHP reference No. 97000452 [1]
Added to NRHPApril 28, 2000

Thorncrown Chapel is a chapel located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, designed by E. Fay Jones, and constructed in 1980. The design recalls the Prairie School of architecture popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright, with whom Jones had apprenticed. The chapel was commissioned by Jim Reed, a retired schoolteacher, who envisioned a non-denominational pilgrimage chapel set apart for meditation. The design of Thorncrown Chapel was inspired by Sainte-Chapelle, a Gothic church in Paris, France, pierced by numerous stained glass windows. It held some of King Louis's medieval Christian relics, including the Crown of Thorns believed worn by Christ. This relic inspired the name of the American chapel.


The chapel's unusual artistry has been recognized. It was selected for the 2006 Twenty-five Year Award by the American Institute of Architects. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, [1] a status not granted to buildings fewer than fifty years old unless exceptionally significant. [2] It was included in Budget Travel's list of "12 Most Beautiful Churches in America" [3] and Bored Panda's list of "50 Most Extraordinary Churches Of The World." [4]


Resident Jim Reed, a retired schoolteacher, bought land in 1971 where he intended to commission a non-denominational pilgrimage chapel near Eureka Springs, Arkansas. He wanted it to be set apart from the city for meditation in the foothill, forested landscape. He commissioned architect E. Fay Jones to design the project. Jones said he was inspired in his design of Thorncrown Chapel by Sainte-Chapelle, a Gothic church in Paris, France. It is known for its jewel-like interior, the result of its many narrow, stained-glass windows and different types of glass that allow light into the structure.

Structure and status

Interior Thorncrown Chapel interior.jpg

The chapel stands 48 feet (15 meters) high, 24 feet (7.3 meters) wide, and 60 feet (18 meters) long. [5] It has 425 windows, which add up to 6,000 square feet (approximately 560 square meters) of glass. During the design process, Jones decided that in order to preserve the site's natural setting, no structural element could be larger than what two men could carry through the woods. The structure was constructed using organic materials indigenous to northwestern Arkansas, including pressure-treated Southern pine and flagstone for the floor and surrounding wall. The small ornamental roof skylight was later enlarged to provide additional natural lighting throughout the chapel. [6]

The chapel looks like an open-air structure, but is, in fact, an enclosed air-conditioned space that seats up to 100 people. It is open daily from March to December with free admission. It is closed January and February except for weddings and other special events. Non-denominational church services are held in the adjoining worship center on Sundays from April to December. [7]

Honors and awards

The chapel was selected by the American Institute of Architects for the 2006 Twenty-five Year Award, recognizing works whose value has continued. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, [1] a status not granted to buildings fewer than fifty years old unless exceptionally significant. [2]

Budget Travel included the chapel in its list of "12 Most Beautiful Churches in America" [3] Bored Panda has it on the list of "50 Most Extraordinary Churches Of The World." [4]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. 1 2 "How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation," (PDF), National Register Bulletins, National Park Service, 6. Accessed 2009-12-06.
  3. 1 2 "12 Most Beautiful Churches in America". January 21, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  4. 1 2 "50 Most Extraordinary Churches of the World" . Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  5. "Thorncrown Chapel Architecture". Thorncrown Chapel. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  6. Watson, Stephanie A.; Kucko, Jane K. (2001). "Thorncrown and the Mildred B. Cooper Chapels: Sacred Structures Designed by Fay Jones". Journal of Interior Design. 27 (2): 14–25. doi:10.1111/j.1939-1668.2001.tb00474.x. ISSN   1939-1668. S2CID   109773341.
  7. "Thorncrown Chapel Visitation and Services". Thorncrown Chapel. Retrieved July 21, 2020.

Further reading