Property’s Morning Obsession: St. Katharine Drexel Chapel, New Orleans

Though Philadelphians can’t help but think of St. Katharine Drexel as one of our own, the Drexel heiress turned canonized nun has great import for Catholics across the world. A tireless advocate for social justice, St. Katharine traveled across the U.S. to intervene where she saw oppression of minorities, whether against sharecroppers in the South or Native Americans in the Southwest.


st. katharine drexel

Photo: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects via designboom

All kinds of tributes have been paid to St. Katharine, but this week designboom featured the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel at Xavier University of Louisiana, a school she founded for African-American and Native American students, and is the only historically black Catholic college in the nation. The chapel, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, was built in 2011 after the part of the campus it sits on was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

st. katharine drexel

Photo: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects via designboom

designboom says (without capital letters, which is their house style):

the building expresses the austerity of the enterprising nun in its material palette…walls, built with the same masonry technique of the tomb of st.katharine, grow in height as they wrap around the altar, giving the space a sense of lift…the axially aligned sacred spaces have a distinct sculptural presence on campus, but pay tribute to the ascetic sensibility and restraint of st. katharine’s philosophy to create a spiritual respite on the landscape.

st. katharine drexel

Photo: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects via designboom


The site has renderings, construction site photos, and many images of the finished product, which is quite beautiful.

pelli clark pelli: st.katharine drexel chapel, xavier university of louisiana [designboom]

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