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Memorial Church of Harvard University

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Memorial Church
Memorial Church

The Memorial Church of Harvard University, more commonly known as the Harvard Memorial Church (or simply MemChurch) is a building on the campus of Harvard University.

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It was meant to be and I think is the symbolic center of the university. we probably see more people passing through here in the course of a year than almost any other space that I can think of at Harvard We're not just a museum to the war dead of WWI who were brought through but we're a large and lively congregation and it's the natural place that people turn to when there is trouble or sorrow or celebration I think people are, especially in large institutions like this need a place of centering they need a place where they can bring both their sorrows and their joys so this is one of those few places, I can't think of many people celebrate in the library and you may not be particularly thoughtful on soldiers field but this church with the emphasis upon a commemoration of sacrifice, young lives all sorts of promise. So this is a place where freshmen are welcome, these are the steps on which commencement is held there are very few buildings and programs at Harvard that are hospitable in this way and I think that's why people turn to us, they recognize that they need it and we certainly encourage it, we want it to happen. The original connection was that the dead should always be present among the living, that the two should be together and that happens most perfectly at reunions when at the center of every reunion is a memorial service and then somebody said to me it's really nice to know that when I'm dead, somewhere somebody will call out my name, and this is that place. And I want it always to be the case here. And as Harvard becomes ever more diverse and complex I hope that this place will continue to be the heart of its operations, and I believe it can be.




The first distinct building for worship at Harvard University was Holden Chapel, built in 1744. The college soon outgrew the building, which was replaced by a chapel inside Harvard Hall in 1766, then a chapel in University Hall in 1814, and finally by Appleton Chapel, a building dedicated solely to worship sited where The Memorial Church now stands.

Standing for 73 years before the current building, Appleton Chapel was home to religious life at Harvard until 1932. Its namesake is preserved inside Memorial Church, as the Appleton Chapel portion of the main building houses the daily service of Morning Prayer. When Appleton Chapel was built in 1858, thanks to the generosity of Samuel Appleton, Morning Prayer attendance was compulsory. When attendance became voluntary in 1886, the College was left with a building that had become too large for the Morning Prayer services and too small for the Sunday services. Although there was talk of building a more suitable chapel for worship at Harvard, nothing was done until soon after World War I when Harvard University President Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1909–1933) combined the idea of a war memorial with the need for a new chapel. Appleton Chapel was torn down after the 1931 Commencement.[1] The University Architects Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch & Abbott, were enlisted to design the new building, and they planned a structure that would complement the imposing edifice of Widener Library. This created an open area known as the Tercentenary Theatre, where Commencement Exercises are held.

Memorial Church

The current Memorial Church was built in 1932 in honor of the men and women of Harvard University who died in World War I. The names of 373 alumni were engraved within alongside a sculpture named The Sacrifice by Malvina Hoffman.[1] It was dedicated on Armistice Day on November 11, 1932.[1] The knight's face in The Sacrifice was modelled on the British World War I flying ace, Ian Henderson.[2]

Since then, other memorials have been established within the building commemorating those Harvardians who later died in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. For seventy-five years, it has stood in Harvard Yard opposite Widener Library as a physical reminder of Harvard's spiritual heritage. Since its inception, the Harvard Memorial Church has had weekly choral music provided at its Sunday services by the Harvard University Choir, which is composed of both graduate and undergraduate students in the university.



  1. ^ a b c Bethell, John T. Harvard Observed: An illustrated history of the University in the twentieth century. Cambridge: Harvard Magazine Incorporated, 1998: 111. ISBN 0-674-37733-8
  2. ^ Hoffman, Malvina (1965). Yesterday is Tomorrow: A Personal History. Crown Publishers. p. 192.

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This page was last edited on 10 February 2018, at 07:41
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