About The Project

Randy and Wendy hitching a ride out to photograph the chapel on Peddocks Island in Boston Harbor with Captain Mike McDevitt (© Jenny Chang)

In addition to the historic churches, temples and mosques that dot the Boston skyline, sacred spaces are hidden around the edges of the city, just out of view. These chapels, meditation spaces and prayer rooms serve a spiritual mission within otherwise secular institutions. Some were designed by well-known architects while others were created informally by people desiring a small retreat. They may be familiar and accessible or truly hidden from public view, but they all invite passers-by to pause, sit for a moment, and reflect.

Sociologist Wendy Cadge, architectural historian Alice Friedman, and photographer Randall Armor have documented more than 60 sacred spaces in and around greater Boston. Sites include municipal buildings, shopping malls, military installations, schools and universities, health care organizations, prisons, mental health centers, cemeteries, senior living communities and rehabilitation centers. We are currently touring multiple exhibitions of these photographs and anticipate a book in the coming years.

This remarkable project provides a glimpse into the life and history of the city from a sacred edge and an appreciation for what these spaces offer, both literally and symbolically, to residents and visitors alike.

This project emerged, in part, from Professor Cadge’s collaborations with Professor Friedman and the late Karla Johnson, AIA, Principal, Johnson Roberts Associates. Their shared projects include Sacred Space in a Secular Nation of Believers, an exploratory seminar at the Radcliffe Institute; Multi-Faith Spaces, an online collection of case studies, design resources, and readings; and Spiritual Spaces, a database of religious buildings on college campuses.  Karla designed the Interfaith Center at Tufts University and taught, through her buildings and her life, the importance of pause. We pursue this project in her memory.

The project recently completed a pilot collaboration with WBUR and Walking Cinema that produced three radio pieces and immersive ways to view two of the sites, all with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Wendy Cadge (left) and Alice Friedman
Randall Armor (© Stephen Borack)

WENDY CADGE is a Professor in the Sociology Department at Brandeis University. She is the author of Paging God: Religion in the Halls of MedicineHeartwood: The First Generation of Theravada Buddhism in America and is a co-editor of Religion on the Edge: De-Centering and Re-Centering the Sociology of Religion. Her exploration of Boston’s hidden sacred spaces is part of a broader project focused on chaplains in the greater Boston area historically and in the present. She is also the founder and director of the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab, which studies shifts in American spiritual and religious life and builds up the profession of spiritual care. Contact Wendy directly at wcadge@brandeis.edu. and visit her website at http://wendycadge.com.

As Grace Slack McNeil Professor of the History of American Art at Wellesley College, ALICE FRIEDMAN  is interested in building an interdisciplinary, feminist approach to architecture through research, teaching, and public education. She is the author most recently of American Glamour and the Evolution of American Architecture and Women and the Making of the Modern House. Her research and teaching focus on modern architecture and the history of design in the United States. She is particularly concerned with the social and cultural history of architecture, with an emphasis on issues of gender, patronage, and the history of taste, both in the United States and in Europe, 1750 to the present.

RANDALL ARMOR is a longtime Boston-based commercial photographer and educator, and has directed career certification programs at Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts and at New England School of Photography. In recent years, he has intensified his pursuit of what he calls Road Work, an eclectic mashup of street, travel and documentary photography. Visit his website to see more of his work.  http://www.armorfoto.com