14 June 2008

Lee Chapel - 140 Years Ago Today

Lee Chapel was completed in 1868 and was dedicated (not consecrated) on Sunday morning, 14 June. The choir from the Lexington Presbyterian Church sang, Lee’s Pastor and former CSA artillery commander, Dr. William Nelson Pendleton, delivered the address. Later the same day, the Chapel’s first baccalaureate services were held and that address was delivered by Dr. Charles Minnigerode. Minnigerode is perhaps best known as having been the minister during the war years of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond , often called the "Church of the Confederacy " since many confederate officials, including Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, worshipped there.

Lee Chapel is one and a half stories, with a basement, and a slate roof. The upper walls are constructed of brick believed to have been fired on school grounds. The basement walls are made of native limestone, of which there is an abundance of in the Shenandoah Valley. These stones were also believed to have been hewn on site.

General Lee did not want the school tied to any particular denomination and chapel services were rotated by the pastors of several Lexington churches. Each service included singing, scripture reading, and prayer. The Chapel soon became the center and soul of the college and its students.

English Ivy adorns much of the outer brick walls and tradition has it that the ivy was originally brought from George Washington’s tomb at Mount Vernon. Lee’s connection to Washington, which he was conscious of in life—and which he cultivated—continues after his death.

It is a beautiful structure with a great book and souvenir shop and well worth the time and effort to visit.

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