Chapel of St. Ignatius, Seattle

The Chapel of St. Ignatius is an ultra-modern and graceful little chapel on the campus of Seattle University that has won multiple architectural awards.


History of Chapel of St. Ignatius

Seattle University is a Jesuit institution, and the chapel is named for St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. The concept of the chapel reflects St. Ignatius' vision of the spiritual life: it is composed of both interior lights and darknesses, which he called "consolations and desolations."

The Chapel of St. Ignatius was designed by locally-born New York architect Steven Holl and dedicated on April 6, 1997. The won a design award from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. A scale model of the chapel has become part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

What to See at Chapel of St. Ignatius

The chapel's exterior is relatively plain, composed of curved steel and 21 wall panels stained a light ochre. The wall color is intended to resemble the stone used in the churches of Rome. A long reflecting pool and six Japanese Katsura trees provide a peaceful context for the chapel.

Entrance is on the south side, through doors made of Alaskan yellow cedar with reddened bronze accents. One door is larger than the other, based on the traditional practice of having a smaller door for everyday use and a larger door for ceremonial occasions.

The doors open into the narthex, a spacious room decorated with modern art inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola. The cement floors are warmed with a large wool rug designed by the architect, which represents the River Cardoner where St. Ignatius experienced one of his illuminations. The wall is decorated with five icons of the saint painted by Dora Nikolova Bittau.

From here a sloped processional way leads along the west wall into the main sanctuary. On the way, visitors pass four windows that represent the four parts of St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises: Conversion; God's Indwelling; Christ's Laboring; and Resurrection. At the entrance to the sanctuary is the baptismal font, filled with holy water. Displayed above the font in graceful glass vessels are holy oils used for anointing during baptism, confirmation and healing rituals.

Inside, the overall design theme of the Chapel of St. Ignatius was "seven bottles of light in a stone box," with each of those bottles reflecting an aspect of Catholic worship. Each opening channels natural light into the chapel at various angles, so that soft light in different colors suffuses the rooms. The overall effect is elegant and enchanting.

The main sanctuary centers on an altar made of Alaskan yellow cedar with a bronze base. Inside the altar are relics of St. Francis Xavier, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Edmund Campion and St. Ignatius of Loyola. The wall behind the altar has a light coating of gold leaf. The crucifix on the east wall is both old and new: the sculpture of Jesus is from of an older crucifix from the Austrian Alps and the cross was made for the chapel of Alaskan cedar. Standing to the right of the altar is a sculpture called Gratia Plena ("Full of Grace"), carved from a single block of Carrara marble by Steven Heilmer.

Nestled in the northwest corner is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, an intimate space bathed in soft orange light. The white walls are coated in beeswax and decorated with gold-leaf prayers of Catholic saints. The focal point of the furnishings is a living Madrona tree that reaches upward to the light, symbolizing the struggle of life. From one of its strong branches hangs a lamp made of amber glass embedded with leaves and seeds. The Blessed Sacrament (bread for the Eucharist) is stored in an onyx box in the center of the room. The opaque glass window in the north wall, which bears the seal of the Jesuits, was designed by Steven Holl.

Quick Facts on Chapel of St. Ignatius

Site Information
Names:Chapel of St. Ignatius
Country:United States
Categories:academic chapels
Dedication: St. Ignatius
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:47.611385° N, 122.317926° W
Address:Seattle University, E. Marion St. and 12th Ave. E
Seattle, Washington
Hours:Mon-Thu 7am-10pm; Fri 7am-7pm; Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 9am-10pm
Lodging:View hotels near Chapel of St. Ignatius
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


  1. Personal visit (September 21, 2009).
  2. Frommer's Seattle
  3. The Chapel of St. Ignatius: A Gathering of Different Lights – Seattle University
  4. Seattle University's Chapel of St. Ignatius - HistoryLink

More Information

View from south of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (1997) by Steven Holl. Seattle University, Seattle, Washington,... © Holly Hayes
South facade of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (1997) by Steven Holl. Seattle University, Seattle, Washington,... © Holly Hayes
The unusually-shaped west exterior. Chapel of St. Ignatius (1997) by Steven Holl. Seattle University, Seattle,... © Holly Hayes
Interior view of the Chapel of St. Ignatius (1997) by Steven Holl. Seattle University, Seattle, Washington,... © Holly Hayes
Nestled in the northwest corner of the building, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is an intimate space bathed in... © Holly Hayes
Chapel of St. Ignatius (1997) by Steven Holl. Seattle University, Seattle, Washington, USA. © Holly Hayes
A prayer by St. Ignatius of Antioch in gold leaf on the wax-covered walls of the Chapel of the Blessed... © Holly Hayes
Located next to the altar area, this modern sculpture is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and titled © Holly Hayes
Jars of anointing oil in the Chapel of St. Ignatius (1997) by Steven Holl. Seattle University, Seattle,... © Holly Hayes

Map of Chapel of St. Ignatius, Seattle

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