March 24, 2011 by: Ben Heimsath

If suddenly sacred spaces are naïve, temporary creations, then at the other end of the spectrum must be the Rothko Chapel.  This celebrated place was conceived as a deliberate structure for the experience of one profound installation of art.  Patrons, John and Dominque de Menhil established a bequest to ensure it continues as a spiritual space for people of all faiths. Rothko Chapel from NPR Feature
 Interior of the Rothko Chapel, (from NPR)

NPR ran a great feature in celebration the 40th anniversary of the Rothko Chapel.  My wife and I visited recently and, while it felt pretty crowded, I still was intrigued by the idea of a non-denominational, spiritual interior dedicated to one incredible installation of art.  I'm going to need some time to organize my thoughts before I'll be comforable saying more about this remarkable space.

Broken Obelisk and Reflecting PoolThen, as we left, the powerful Broken Obelisk drew my attention.  It was acquired from the Corcoran Gallery in Washington DC after their director in the mid 1960's deemed it too controversial.  John de Menhil funded its relocation to the Rothko Chapel in 1971 and it was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Shelf in the PoolOn this overcast day, the sculpture stood solemn against the sky, as did the image in the water of the reflecting pool.  I looked into the water and saw a shallow ledge.  This simple architectural gesture lightened the experience.  It invited people to take off their shoes and wade in.  And before I knew it, these folks pulled off their shoes and plunked their bare feet in the water!

Rothko Chapel Wading Pool

Holy Place/ Worship Space