Santa Paula, California
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity is prominently located at the head of the main quadrangle at Thomas Aquinas College. This central location reflects the central role of faith in the pursuit of wisdom. As domus Dei, the chapel is intended to offer a beautiful edifice for divine liturgy, for prayer, and to be an image of our heavenly destiny. The design partakes of the broad tradition of Catholic architecture including the Early Christian, the Romanesque, the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Spanish tradition, and the churches of Southern California.
The three story belltower and dome can be seen from within the valley, and in particular from Ojai Road. Two octagonal corner pavilions, inspired by the posas built for catechesis by Spanish missionaries, provide a transition to the arcades of existing academic buildings.
The front of the chapel is on the college’s main quadrangle with arcades providing covered access from the chapel to the academic buildings. The front façade is articulated by a limestone triumphal arch with fluted and spiral fluted ionic columns. These frame the marble statues of St. Augustine, Doctor Gratiae, and St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor Communis the spiritual fathers of the college. Positioned above are four Corinthian pilasters which form a temple in muris punctuated by a central window. Within the triangular pediment two angels hold the college’s coat of arms while a marble statue of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity surmounts the pediment. The lower frieze inscription, Domina Nostra Sanctissimae Trinitatatis, indicates the dedication of the chapel while the upper frieze quotes Rev. 12:1, Et Signum magnum apparuit in caelo mulier amicta sole et luna sub pedibus eius et in capite eius corona stellarum duodecim.
The triumphal arch leads to a large exonarthex with doric pilasters which support a heavy coffered vault. The main bronze doors have been designed to receive six bas-reliefs from the life of the Virgin with the “coronation” in the lunette above. The chapel has a nave, transept and sanctuary in the shape of a cross holding up to four hundred people. corinthian arcades made out of monolithic marble columns give it the character of an Early Christian basilica. The corinthian capitals have an image of the Holy Spirit on their face. A giant order of composite pilasters support a full entablature from which springs the vault of the ceiling with its ribbed supports and arched windows. At the crossing, a segmental dome symbolizes the dome of heaven with twelve circular windows in honor of the apostles. Large double pilasters give support to the dome with pendentives marked by symbols of the four evangelists. The side aisles provide places for procession and additional seating, while mahogany confessionals are placed at the center point of the nave.
The curved sanctuary is defined by a raised marble floor, an altar rail and giant composite pilasters and arches. The main focus of the interior is on the pure white marble altar covered by a bronze baldacchino. Four solomonic columns on marble pedestals support a canopy, while angels holding wheat and grapes flank an image of Christ crucified. An octagonal marble and gold bronze tabernacle with an image of the redeemer is centrally located at the head of the chapel. To either side of the sanctuary are marble shrines with paintings of the Annunciation and the Baptism of Christ while shrines in honor of the temptation of St. Thomas and the communion of St. Theresa of Avila are located at the end of the transepts. A sacristy and a work sacristy with mahogany cabinetry are located to either side of the sanctuary and connected by a small ambulatory.
SANTA PAULA, CA — The archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, presided at the Dedication Mass of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel on Saturday, March 7, 2009, at 11:00 a.m.
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel is the 12th of 15 buildings to be completed on the campus of Thomas Aquinas College. At a cost of $23 million, it is 15,000-square feet in area and is the most prominently situated and most elaborate of the structures on the campus. The Chapel is cruciform in shape and features a 135-foot bell tower.
Although the basis of its design is in the Spanish Mission style of Southern California, Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel also incorporates elements from the Catholic Church’s long tradition of sacred architecture, such as a dome that rises 89 feet over the sanctuary, floors and columns of Italian marble, and an ornate limestone façade.
In 2003, before construction began, Pope John Paul II blessed the plans for Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, and just this past fall, the cornerstone of the new building was shipped to Rome to receive the blessing of Pope Benedict XVI. Says college president Dr. Thomas E. Dillon, “Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel will be a statement in stone, as it were, for our students and for all who visit our campus that Thomas Aquinas College is resolved to remain ever loyal to the Vicar of Christ and faithful to the teaching Church.”
The new chapel has permanent seating for 450 in its nave and loft, and its generous side aisles can be used to accommodate another 250 in temporary seating. The chapel’s soaring vaulted ceiling, while helping to lift the hearts and minds of the congregation to God, will also provide outstanding acoustics for the college’s student choir and chant schola, which provided the music at the Dedication Mass with selections from composers such as Hassler, Mozart, Dubois, and Palestrina.
Says college chaplain Rev. Cornelius Buckley, S.J., “The name that has been chosen for our new chapel is fitting, since the entire academic program at Thomas Aquinas College culminates in the study of St. Thomas Aquinas’ treatise on the Trinity.” He adds, “And Mary is our model par excellence in her relationship to the Holy Trinity — the perfect daughter of the Father, the most admirable mother of the Son, and the dearest spouse of the Holy Spirit.”
Once dedicated, the new chapel will be the site of the College’s four daily Masses as well as the many devotions initiated and attended by a large majority of its 350 students, who hail from across the country and abroad.