Mount Auburn Cemetery Chapels, Cambridge

Founded in 1831, Mount Auburn Cemetery combines space for burial and commemoration with appreciation for the natural world. It is also the home of two historic chapels.

The first chapel at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Bigelow Chapel, was designed in the 1840s in classic Gothic Revival Style. Architect Jacob Bigelow designed the chapel, the only entry in the design competition that included stained glass.

The original stained glass windows, designed by Allan and Ballantyne, were imported from Edinburgh, Scotland in 1845. The chapel was rebuilt in the 1850s and the interior renovated by Willard Sears in 1899 to create a crematory. A new addition was built in 1970 to house a new crematory which enabled the chapel and crematory to function entirely separately.

Today the chapel can accommodate 75 guests in rows of wooden seats. Memorial services as well as arts programs and public events take place inside the chapel and in the surrounding gardens.

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The Story Chapel was built between 1896 and 98 as a non-denominational chapel just adjacent to the Cemetery’s Egyptian Revival Gateway. The cemetery needed a second chapel and the design was selected in a competition. Story Chapel’s architect, Willard T. Sears, intended for it to resemble an English parish church. Wood dominates the interior, with carved beams overhead, pews, and a historic pulpit.

Originally called “New Chapel,” the chapel was later named for Justice Joseph Story, the first President of the Cemetery and one of its founders. In 1929 architects Allen and Collens supervised the installation of stained glass in the nave and chancel of the chapel. The work was created and signed by Earl E. Sanborn, a local glass artist, and features traditional Christian imagery. It was built of Potsdam sandstone, chosen for its richness and variegation of color, with yellow bricks used in the interior. The chapel also houses a historic Hook & Hastings organ.

Story Chapel can comfortably seat 175 and has space for additional seating. It is air conditioned and fully handicapped accessible. Today the Chapel is used for memorial services, public programs, and houses the Cemetery’s Visitors Center.