Mother Alfons Schmid, cofoundress of the School Sisters of St. Francis, is responsible for this Milwaukee landmark. In the early 1900s, Mother Alfons had a dream of building a chapel of incomparable beauty. It would adjoin the convent, which was erected in 1891, and would be dedicated to the permanent service of God.
She commissioned Milwaukee church architects Peter Brust and Richard Philipp to design it, and sent Philipp to Europe to study the noted cathedrals. They inspired him to bring this perfect example of Italian Romanesque Revival to life on the drawing board. Construction began in 1913 and was completed in three years and seven months. It was dedicated on March 19, 1917.
The chapel is Romanesque in style and cruciform in design. It is 200 feet long and 90 feet wide at its greatest breadth, with the dome rising 70 feet above the sanctuary. The chapel seats 500 people. Its acoustics provide an exceptional environment in which to pray and experience sacred music . Since the 1970s it has been a favorite setting for choral and instrumental concerts.
- Though it looks like a cathedral, St. Joseph Chapel is called a chapel because it can only be accessed from inside St. Joseph Center. There is no exterior entrance.
- The intricate stained-glass windows survived shipment from Europe by sea during World War I, when many boats bound for the United States were attacked.
- The chapel was dedicated and consecrated as a sacred space in 1917.
St. Joseph Chapel Historical Photos