Bigelow Chapel

December 5, 2011

Bigelow Chapel, designed in the Gothic Revival Style by Dr. Jacob Bigelow, was built  in the 1840s and serves as a venue for public programs and funeral and memorial services.The original plans for Mount Auburn included a chapel that would function as a venue for funeral services. The trustees wanted a design that was consistent with the Romantic Picturesque style used throughout the Cemetery. Several architects submitted design entries, but Jacob Bigelow, one of the Cemetery’s founders, possessed the winning plans. Construction began in 1844.  While many of the designs were similar in scale and style, Bigelow’s was the only to include stained glass.

Bigelow Lawn 1800s

The original stained glass windows, imported in 1845 from Edinburgh, Scotland, were designed by the famous Allan and Ballantyne, and still remain on view today (they underwent intensive conservation in 2006). The Chapel was rebuilt in the 1850s of Quincy granite, and in 1899, the interior was renovated by Willard Sears (architect of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum) to create a crematory. The interior was renovated again later by Allen and Collens in the Gothic style.

Bigelow Rose

Rose window, taken by Virginia Raguin

In 1860 the Prince of Wales (and future Edward VII) visited Mount Auburn and planted a European beech in front of the Chapel. Twelve years later, the Sphinx gifted to the Cemetery by Jacob Bigelow was installed facing the Chapel. In 1970 a new addition was built to house a new crematory (the one still in use today). Because of this addition, the crematory and chapel functions are now completely separate. The lawn facing Bigelow Chapel was re-landscaped in 1995 to accommodate public assembly, and is now a gathering place for public programs and events.

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