Chapel on the Rock, St. Malo

If you have driven along the Peak to Peak Highway to Estes Park, Colorado, you have certainly seen the dramatic Chapel of St. Malo, located below the towering peak of Mount Meeker.

“Upon this rock I shall build my Church” (Matt 16:18)

Monsignor Joseph Bosetti, after seeing a meteor fall in the area and searching for its remnants, was inspired by this beautiful, rugged site to pray for the funds to build a church.  Twenty years of prayers later, the chapel was constructed with local stone from a design by architect Jacques Benedict.  Benedict was a Beaux Arts-educated Denver architect with a long list of very accomplished buildings, many of Denver’s very best, including the Phipps Mansion in Denver, mentioned here in a post last week (  ).  By all accounts Benedict was a difficult, eccentric architect, but also responsible for helping to raise money for many of the public buildings he worked on.

Unusual for Benedict, the building is a kind of mash-up of northern European medieval architecture and Romanesque details.  Typically preferring Italian Renaissance models, Benedict let the rugged, rocky site dictate both the material and the design of the building.  Maybe the then remote site evoked notions of Cistercian abbeys rather than the lighter, more delicate Greek and Roman revivals.  Or just possibly, the cost and availability of producing dressed stone at this austere, wind-blown site limited Benedict to create a building of mass and weight, not so much springing up from the rocks as melding with them.

The church and associated buildings are now run as a Catholic retreat and conference center.  Dedicated to the honor of St. Catherine of Siena, the chapel is now a protected Boulder County landmark.

Saint Malo, the Catholic saint, was one of the evangelical saints credited for bringing the Orkney Islands and northern Scotland into Christendom around 550 A.D.  (I don’t know if there are any specific connections of this site with the city of Saint Malo in Brittany, France, except maybe as the ancestral home of the grantees of the land, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Malo.  Saint Malo, the city, is a medieval walled city on an island at the mouth of the Rance River in the English Channel.)

For more information, (including much of the history listed here), see www.saintmalo.org

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