Nestled in the lush forests of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Thorncrown Chapel is a soaring structure of glass and wood that blends seamlessly with its natural surroundings. Designed by renowned architect Fay Jones, the chapel is a testament to the beauty of nature, and the ways it can inspire creativity, faith, and art.
Approaching the chapel, the sunlight filters through the trees, casting soft dappled light on the chapel's wood-clad exterior. The chapel windows seem to disappear into the forest, creating an ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere. Inside, the space is light and airy, with a high ceiling and walls of glass that invite the outside in. The natural light illuminates the simple, elegant furnishings, creating a sense of peace and tranquility. Everything feels still—sacred.
The beauty of the natural world is a reflection of the divine, and yet we so often feel disconnected from its splendors. Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it is easy to forget the beauty and serenity of the earth. As a renowned architect, Fay Jones knew this well. Life is busy and loud. It is easy to miss the melodies of nature. This is, in part, a matter of perception. It is, as artist Makoto Fujimura describes, “that we fail to see the divine in the earth, already active and working, pouring forth grace and spilling glory into our lives.”
The Thorncrown Chapel’s first inception sprouted in a quiet place. As Fay Jones sat in the forest, surrounded by the beauty of the Ozark Mountains, he soaked it all in. The trees stood tall and proud, their branches reaching toward the sky. The air was filled with the sweet scent of wildflowers and pine. He knew he had found the perfect location for his next project. Jones carefully selected natural materials like wood and stone to craft the chapel, using traditional techniques to create intricate woodwork that evoked a sense of warmth and tranquility. The result was a building that invited the outdoors in and created a sense of harmony between man-made and natural environments. The “divine in the earth” was “spilling glory into our lives”.
“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.” — Luke 12:27
Scripture is rich with celebrations of the majesty of the earth and all those who live on it. From the lush green forests and clear flowing rivers to the delicate petals of a flower and the soaring flight of a bird, the natural world is a constant reminder of the power and creativity of God.
The Thorncrown Chapel celebrates this beauty. Its organic design and use of natural materials evoked a sense of serenity and connection to the environment. Its discerning details bring a sense of calm and peacefulness.
In the pews of its interior, there is a gentle, unspoken invitation for its visitors. To pause and appreciate the beauty of the earth, to seek out moments of connection, and to cultivate peace wherever we go.
Photos— Ryan Jones, Connor Wilkins