Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Within A Peaceful Chapel

Off the garden courtyard in the National Gallery is a wondrous space which you hear before you see. The Rideau Convent Chapel is the preserved chapel of The Convent Of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, which was erected along Rideau Street back in 1886-87. The Chapel is the only one of its kind built at the time in North America with the Tudor style fan vault ceiling. When the building was sold and demolished in the 1970s, three levels of government and heritage groups worked with the Gallery to save this chapel, which has been relocated here. The architecture as well as the convent's collection is now preserved at the Gallery. 

You might notice speakers around the room. That's the part of this a visitor hears first, and the other artistic element of this space. Janet Cardiff devised The Forty Part Motet as a sound sculpture. This is a choral work that adapts a sixteenth century composition, 'Spem in Alium' by the English composer Thomas Tallis. Forty separately recorded parts are played back through these speakers. Walking around the room allows you to take in the choral music piece by piece, with individual voices audible through each speaker in turn, or in the heart of the room listening to it all. It's hard to describe (and unfortunately videos are not allowed, but even then couldn't really convey it in the way that being here in person does), but yes, you stand in here and you can feel the sound. In the words of the panel outside, you're "able to climb inside the music." I am, however, adding in this video link from the Ottawa Citizen that gives you at least a hint of the sound.

Chapel sculptures are around the room. These are wood sculptures, a century or so in age, by the same two sculptors. Angel Holding A Legend is this one, carved by Henri Angers.

Angers also carved Angel Holding A Book. 

Across the room are three other sculptures in wood, each carved by Louis Jobin in the 1880s. Saint Peter is the first.

This is Our Lady of Lourdes.

While this is Saint Paul.

Here we have a look back at the first two.

And here is a view of the altar.

This chapel, with its marvelous architecture, is a work of art in and of itself, and the choral music simply adds to it. To say that it was well worth saving is an understatement.


  1. What a wonderful space. I would love to hear the music.

  2. I love a fan vaulted ceiling, just so elegant.

  3. wow! what a structure! love the ceiling. never seen anything like that.

  4. ...for me the ceiling is the highlight!

  5. Such a wonderful space William, you described it so beautifully I had to try and see if there was any way to hear it. There's a YouTube video '360 degrees Rideau Chapel' which gives a bit of an idea, but nothing would be as good as being there ✨

  6. The sculptures are elegant and beautiful. And love the lighting design in the chapel. But the sound sculpture is such a creative, intriguing concept.

  7. It's beautiful, and it must be a wonderful experience to walk there with the special sound.

  8. gorgeous ceiling and such amazing architecture!! ( ;

  9. Oh, that choral thing is back. We have experienced it twice, and it is quite wonderful. As I said yesterday, the last time we were there, we were not allowed to take photos. How silly.

  10. Wow, that ceiling is pretty flippin' cool.

  11. @Joan: it is a stunning setting.

    @Rosemary: very much so.

    @Klara: it is quite something.

    @Francisco: thank you.

    @Tom: me too.

    @Iris: it is!

    @Grace: I imagine that's probably set up by the Gallery, as there is a security guard inside the chapel at all times and who would probably ask that a video be stopped.

    @Gemma: it is a wonder.

    @Jan: it really is.

    @Beth: thank you!

    @Anvilcloud: yes, most of the time when I visit the choral music is playing. I do like the fact that we're allowed to take photos, for the most part. The odd item is marked no photos, but that's fine.

    @Whisk: it is!

  12. How beautiful, and to both visual and auditory senses. It's great that it was saved and then the coral was added to the experience! Love the architecture, the sculptures, and the experiences of visitors!

  13. Hello William!
    Amazing architecture and beautiful sculptures!
    Like the ceiling! Thank you for sharing!
    Have a happy Tuesday!

  14. Would be amazing to see...and the music must make it even more spectacular!

  15. Love the design of the ceiling. Happy Tuesday!

  16. It must be quite magical to be inside this gorgeous space. That ceiling is breathtaking.

  17. It's good that there are people in power who can see the value in keeping important parts of our heritage. Very beautiful.

  18. @Barbara: I agree.

    @Dimi: you're welcome.

    @Janey: it does.

    @Nancy: thanks!

    @RedPat: definitely.

    @Sharon: it is indeed.

    @Red: I certainly agree.

    @Shammickite: that it is.

  19. That ceiling is simply amazing and so beautiful. The sculptures are also great but in the one of the Angel Holding A Legend it seems her hands are empty. (???)

  20. Stunning chapel. Hearing the sound in person must be a inique experience. Great photos

  21. That ceiling is mesmerizing! Incredible.

  22. That is beautiful, I would love to visit that chapel

  23. William - praise God that this was saved - my jaw dropped when I saw the first picture - I have never seen anything like this and it is truly special. The sound installation adds another unique element - I listened to the video and I can just begin to imagine what it sounds like in person! Thanks for sharing this treasure with us.

  24. The music was beautiful to hear and that ceiling is absolutely gorgeous.

  25. Creative and historical chapel photos ~ glad they were able to save it.

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  26. @Catalyst: yes. I've sent off an inquiry, but my general impression is that it's deliberate- a legend, after all, is not a tangible thing that can be seen.

    @Maywyn: thank you!

    @Marie: it is!

    @Bill: I enjoy seeing it when I visit.

    @Angie: you're welcome.

    @Bill: I agree.

    @Carol: thanks!

  27. I love the serenity of this place. Tweeted.

  28. I love the architecture! Maman is the best, though.

  29. It's beautiful and like all the sculptures. You have captured this place beautifully, love those circular designs in the ceiling.

  30. Beautiful ceiling in that chapel.

  31. What a stunning setting! A friend was able to experience the motet in a similar setting and found it incredible. This would be amazing.

  32. Love the ceiling of the chapel, doesn't look like a chapel ceiling at all, usually you have all the saints painted laying around.

  33. I have so left the church, but it is interesting looking at them, almost.
    Hubby gave up Catholicism, he was an altar boy! He talks of the competition in his small town between Protestants and Catholics. Women who would never speak to one another in the street, but when they ended up in retirement homes, things had finally changed!

  34. What a cool way to experience this place, sights and sounds!

  35. Adding this one to the Ontario List. That fan vault ceiling -- it is the most magnificent piece of architecture. The sound set up sounds pretty fabulous too.

  36. I just love that ceiling … amazing.

    All the best Jan

  37. How beautiful. I listened to the music whilst looking at your photos:)

  38. @Mari: thank you!

    @Jennifer: thanks!

    @Denise: I was incorrect about a couple of details- I corrected the name of one of the artists, as I'd added a letter to the surname Angers. And my supposition that the idea of a legend as intangible was not in fact the case- an inquiry with the Gallery has come back with the reply that the legend was an inscribed object once in the hands of the angel, but which has gone missing at some time after the angel was carved. Thanks go out to Amy, the archivist at the Gallery, for answering my questions.

    @Sami: it really is.

    @Kay: I really enjoyed it. I've heard the motet done here on most visits.

    @Italiafinlandia: that it is.

    @Gattina: yes, it's different from what you might expect, but it works very well indeed.

    @Jenn: it is.

    @Jeanie: and it's even better in person.

    @Jan: amazing indeed.

    @Rosie: I hadn't thought of looking for any official videos of the sound before I published the post.