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Altar of Exposition

Monstrance & Divine MercyImage

Rood Screen

Re-presenting the Heavenly Reality

Dominican Friars

Daily praying of the Divine Office 

Art-Glass Windows

East-facing natural light 

Natural Stone

Timeless and Durable

Choir Stalls

Dominican Prayer

of the Divine Office

Natural Stone

Timeless and Durable

Natural Stone

Timeless and Durable 


(Hover over the image above to see more information)

"Let not the wise boast of his wisdom,

nor the strong boast of his strength,

nor the rich man boast of his riches;

But rather, let those who boast, boast of this,

that in their prudence they know me."


Father Boniface Endorf, O.P.  &  Daniel A. Ezekiel Balan, A.I.A.

A Guide to the Architecture

This chapel will be dedicated to Eucharistic adoration and thus the monstrance holding our Lord will be the focal point of the space. The chapel will therefore look different than a church set up primarily for Mass. At the center will be the parish’s beautiful and historic monstrance holding our Lord, and all other elements of the space serve that focal point.


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The design for the Chapel at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in New York City is meant to provide a fitting place to be perpetually present with our Lord as he is exposed in the most holy sacrament of the altar in the heart of the city that never sleeps. 


This chapel will be a sign of hope in our city – that’s God’s Mercy is still present to us. Many will find spiritual solace and salvation through spending time with Our Lord.

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The intent is that upon completion, the chapel implicitly reflects the basic truths of the Catholic faith.  Seated in a parish with a beautiful and historic Greek Revival church edifice, in a city whose parish churches rival the nation's cathedrals, and as the seat of the Catholic mission to neighboring New York University, the new adoration chapel should feel at home in New York City so as to be a home for New York City’s Catholic faithful.

In keeping with the classical design of St Joseph’s church, the adoration chapel is essentially classical in appearance.  Classical architecture itself is often fitting for Catholic churches because it is expressive of a natural world that is inherently ordered toward perfection.   In deference to the church and in keeping with the Dominican spirituality, the chapel will be designed to convey noble simplicity through restrained Doric pilasters of simple stone reserving the architectural focal point for the monstrance itself.  

Every aspect of the architecture of the chapel is meant to show consideration for the fruitful adoration of the faithful and love and devotion to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Divine Mercy Chapel at St. Joseph's will be dedicated to perpetual adoration and therefore the Eucharist will be exposed on the altar day and night when worshippers are preset.  Yet, the Tabernacle, the fixed repository for the Eucharist, is an essential feature in any church or chapel.  Along with the Altar of Sacrifice, from which it derives its significance, the Tabernacle is the focal point for adoration when Our Lord is not exposed in the monstrance or present at Mass. 


In our chapel, a small, beautiful Tabernacle inset into the Sanctuary Reredos above the Altar will allow for the chapel to serve for a small Mass on special memorials.    



The Altar is always a symbol of Christ, even as it is also the place where the faithful witness, through the holy sacrifice of the Mass, His eternal offering of Himself to the Father.   As set apart for perpetual adoration, the altar at the Divine Mercy Chapel will be privileged to provide the seat for the monstrance where Our Lord will be waiting to encounter countless souls in His mercy and goodness.  

As symbolic of the Prince of Peace, the Altar at our chapel will be made of stone and beautifully carved.  The narrow constraints of the space will dispose the Altar to be fixed to the wall for ad orientem worship only.  The modest space will limit the size, but in no way the honor of the Altar, which will be connected to the Sanctuary Reredos and house the Tabernacle.



The Sanctuary Reredos, or altar screen, grounds the Altar into the architecture of the chapel in the central focal point of the room.  Like the altar, the Reredos will be stone, consisting of bas relief architectural pilasters and paneling which will house both the Tabernacle and provide the architectural frame for the Altarpiece Image of Divine Mercy.  

Though the size of the chapel is small, the Sanctuary Reredos provides a vertical gravitas for the altar, clearly identifying the Eucharist in exposition as the holy of holies and attracting the eyes of all who enter.  

Speaking through an architectural language that is timeless and clear, the Reredos, as an outgrowth of the Altar, identifies Christ as the central feature of the room and sets the datum for all other features of the chapel.  




The Altarpiece is the artistic image above the Altar, behind the monstrance, where a beautiful, handmade depiction of the Divine Mercy will draw in the faithful.   This image gives particular form to the central thesis of the chapel:  That Christ died for our sins and his mercy is our salvation. 

As the most distinctively human representation in the sanctuary, this image must be of the highest quality.  Like the iconographic tradition and all good liturgical art, it must convey nothing of the artist and everything of the true image which it represents.   



Before the monstrance is the rood screen. A rood screen is a wooden screen or wall with a cross on top (a ‘rood’ in old English).  In our chapel, the sanctuary is defined by this traditional, partial-height, rood screen of carved wood, which in addition to providing security for the monstrance, also provides a choir for the sung office of the Dominican friars.  The rood screen is itself a work of art, framing views to the monstrance and representing the reality therein through a symbolic expression of the gates of the new Eden and the transition between Heaven and Earth. 


The rood screen demonstrates the spiritual realities of Eucharistic adoration. For instance, on the upper right and left sides of the rood screen there will be paintings of cherubim and seraphim (angels) adoring God­. The angels worship constantly before God in heaven, and those at prayer in the chapel are joining in the heavenly assembly before God.  Even the iron work points to God: the top of the iron bands on the right and left terminate in a fleur de leis that symbolize the Trinity, while the center bands terminate in the shape of heaven as described by Dante’s Divine Comedy. All of the details and design of the rood screen are meant to bring people’s attention back to Christ present in the Eucharist and to symbolize the significance of whom they are beholding.   

The rood screen serves symbolic and practical purposes.  The prominent Catholic Gothic Revival architect in England, A.W.N. Pugin, wrote a treatise on the significance of rood screens and their post-Reformation removal from Catholic churches; documenting their presence in major churches in England and continental Europe.  Their origins are in antiquity and were long a standard feature amongst religious communities as a means of providing an enclosure in large drafty and populous churches.  Likewise, the rood screen at the Divine Mercy chapel will serve a practical purpose by discouraging someone from walking off with the monstrance and also separating the friars’ Choir Stalls from the rest of the seating.  




As the place for singing the Divine Office, the sanctuary choir will be special to the priests serving St Joseph's church.  As such, the Dominicans propose to refurbish a set of existing choir stalls once used by their brothers in another friary and currently in storage.   Both as a point of humility and as a reminder of a community that spans time and space, the renovated stalls will be adapted and repaired to fit the new choir and  last well into the future.  

The seating in the modest nave area will be modest and durable wood chairs or benches with upholstered kneelers, appropriate to the noble simplicity of the chapel and deferent to the sanctuary. 





The use of natural materials such as stone for flooring and paneling will place the chapel in the tradition of New York City's great patrimony of parish churches, built when making architectural expressions of  glory to God publicly was more commonly celebrated.  Within the chapel nave, the irregular walls and windows of the existing room are made straight and orderly to frame both seating and sanctuary in a unified space.   Lasting durability through use of time-tested materials will ensure this unity abides for the next one hundred years and more.

The chapel will have a timeless look – as if it were always there and will always be there. The chapel will not follow any design fad from a certain period, but instead be rooted in the continual Tradition of the Church as she adores Christ. The chapel will include both Classical elements because the parish church has a Classical design, but it will also incorporate Romanesque and other elements from the Church’s Tradition. It will be a chapel where one feels himself to be in the heart of the Church as she pours out her love for Christ.



The Altar and Sanctuary Reredos are situated on the east wall, so that sunrise will shine from the direction of the stone altar through two arched windows that flank the Altarpiece.   Following the tradition of church architecture, the use of art glass - hand-blown, stained and representational or cut, naturally-translucent alabaster stone - will emphasize the "heavenly light" of day as it shines into the sanctuary. 


Interested sponsors have an opportunity to discuss the exegetical role the windows will play and the particular choice of  material or image which will be used in the completed chapel.




Lighting the chapel will be key to providing an environment for prayerful meditation.  The Altar Lamp burns continuously as a symbol of the light of Christ.  Altar Candlesticks will decorate the altar for use during Benedictions and special Masses.  Hung decorative electric pendants and wall sconces will provide ample lighting to brighten the chapel and complement the architectural features here described.   

A variety of settings will be available so that the lighting will serve the particular hour and celebration.    



An essential component of the chapel will be a substantial electronic security system.        

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