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[caption id="attachment_166386" align="aligncenter" width="1140"] From one of the four short pews — the chapel seats only eight — visitors can pray beneath a stained-glass image of St. Jude ministering to

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[caption id="attachment_166386" align="aligncenter" width="1140"] From one of the four short pews — the chapel seats only eight — visitors can pray beneath a stained-glass image of St. Jude ministering to

Photo Essay/

Going to the Chapel

From one of the four short pews — the chapel seats only eight — visitors can pray beneath a stained-glass image of St. Jude ministering to the sick. photograph by Derek Diluzio

St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope

When Beverly Barutio’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma spread to her liver, spleen, and bone marrow, she prayed to God and St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, to save her. She promised that if she lived, she would build a chapel. In 1991, following her miraculous recovery and eight years in remission, Beverly and her husband, Bill, built St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope in the tiny Madison County community of Trust. Beverly died in 2002 after the cancer returned, but the chapel remains — open to others who might also seek healing.

From one of the four short pews — the chapel seats only eight — visitors can pray beneath a stained-glass image of St. Jude ministering to the sick. photograph by Derek Diluzio

Beyond a small wooden sign with Psalm 121 — “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help” — carved above an invitation to “stop, rest, reflect,” three stone steps rise between two rhododendrons. Through the roughly 180-year-old door that was brought over from England, past the bookcase stacked with free Bibles and notebooks in which visitors sign their names and relay their heartfelt stories, St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope welcomes all who seek solace and a place to commune with God. In front of the prayer bench, the altar overflows with mementos: photos of loved ones, a bottle of holy water from Ethiopia, pet collars, obituaries, and scraps of paper scribbled with prayers.

A belfry was added to Little Cataloochee Baptist Church in 1914. Its 400-pound bell can still be rung by pulling a rope hanging inside the sanctuary. photograph by Jared Kay

Little Cataloochee Baptist Church

The first known homestead in Cataloochee Valley was built 120 years before the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Early settlers logged, farmed, and attended Little Cataloochee Baptist Church, built in 1889. The one-room chapel was heated by a solitary woodstove, and services were informal, with the men often stepping outside to whittle, chew tobacco, and shoot the breeze. Regular services ceased after Cataloochee Valley was abandoned in the 1940s, not long after the creation of the park, but descendants of the former residents still gather at the chapel for reunions. They hold services, decorate the headstones in the graveyard, and share meals. The church can be reached by hiking or riding on horseback along a portion of the roughly five-mile Little Cataloochee Trail, lined with rhododendrons and historic cabins of former Cataloochee Valley residents.

Saint Mary’s Church was built out of chestnut, which is now nearly extinct, in 1905. photograph by Charles Harris

Saint Mary’s Church
West Jefferson

Artist Benjamin F. Long IV spent almost nine years apprenticing under master fresco painter Pietro Annigoni in Florence, Italy. In this ancient art form, pigments are finely ground, mixed with water, and painted onto wet plaster. After returning to his native western North Carolina, Long offered to paint frescoes at several area churches before Father Faulton Hodge of the Parish of the Holy Communion — which splits its services between Saint Mary’s in West Jefferson and Holy Trinity in Glendale Springs — agreed. Painted between 1974 and 1977, at no cost to the parish, the three frescoes in the chancel of Saint Mary’s — Mary Great with Child, John the Baptist, and The Mystery of Faith — represent the basic stages of Christians’ relationship with God: expectancy, preparation, and fulfillment.

Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims visit Long’s frescoes at Saint Mary’s and Holy Trinity churches in Ashe County. photograph by Charles Harris

Holy Trinity Church
Glendale Springs

Built in 1901, Holy Trinity Church sat empty from the early 1930s until the 1970s. By then, the church had fallen into disrepair and had to be rebuilt. Long and 20 student artists painted The Lord’s Supper behind the altar in the summer of 1980, around the time the restoration was completed. In the fresco, Christ is depicted sharing a Passover meal with his disciples — modeled for Long by local community members — on the eve of his Crucifixion. Across from Jesus, a stool stands empty — an invitation to each of us.

In the 1970s, Kathryn Mendenhall Smithey moved a small smokehouse to the side of NC Highway 62 in Randolph County and converted it into a chapel for prayer. photograph by Jerry Wolford & Scott Muthersbaugh

Little Chapel of God’s Love

A white steeple added onto the roof of a former smokehouse announces to passing motorists that this one-time farm building is now a church — proving that with a little thought and intention, any building, no matter how modest, can be a place of worship. Inside the chapel, a wooden cross hangs above the altar on a hand-hewn timber wall; five small, crude benches serve as pews; and a weathered King James Bible lies open on a lectern in the corner — available for anyone who may be seeking the Word of God.

After the 235,000-pound structure was moved half a mile to its current location in 2006, All Saints Chapel was restored based on old photos, down to the light fixtures and wood trim. photograph by REVIVAL CREATIVES, DANIELLE RILEY PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY OF ALL SAINTS CHAPEL

All Saints Chapel

The Free Church of the Good Shepherd held the first service in its new building on Easter Sunday in 1875. Now known as All Saints Chapel, it was designed by the Rev. Johannes A.S. Oertel — a Bavarian immigrant, Episcopal priest, and artist — in the Carpenter Gothic style. The church was moved twice: to the rear of its original property on Hillsborough Street in 1899, when the congregation built a larger sanctuary, and then to South East Street in 2006, when the chapel was saved from demolition and restored for use as a wedding and event venue. Couples walk down the aisle on original wide-plank pine floors, pass flanking wings featuring Gothic arched windows, and say “I do” beneath a vaulted ceiling, whose exposed roof beams are lighted by lavender-tinted clerestory windows.

After tying the knot, couples step off the portico, with its stately Tuscan columns, into their new lives together. Owner Kathy Virtue’s charitable foundation donates fees from weddings to humanitarian causes, such as building orphanages in Kenya. photograph by Faith Teasley

Southern Pines Chapel
Southern Pines

A cornerstone of the brick Colonial Revival-style Southern Pines Chapel is inscribed with the date 1928, the year that the church was built by members of its congregation. Today, the nondenominational chapel has no congregation, but owner Kathy Virtue allows meetings, Bible studies, and prayer groups from other churches to gather within its walls. “When [the chapel] turns 100 in five years, it will still be proclaiming the good news of the Gospel, right there in Southern Pines where it was created,” Virtue says. “I think that’s really special.”

When the light filters through the original stained-glass window, Saint Anne’s Chapel is “just beautiful,” says Tricia Wilson. “You just feel peaceful.” photograph by Chris Rogers

Saint Anne’s Chapel at Oak Grove Retreat

When Kevin and Tricia Wilson bought Oak Grove farm in 1999, the 77-year-old Gothic Revival-style Saint Anne’s Chapel, a former Episcopal mission on the property, was in disrepair. The floor was unsupported and tilted like a seesaw, and boards and vines covered the one remaining stained-glass window, which depicts the Ascension of Christ. With Kevin’s construction experience, the pair were undaunted. Now restored, the century-old chapel hosts guided meditations, yoga classes, drum circles, and weddings, and is open by appointment for quiet reflection. “Our programs are all about stress reduction and fun,” Tricia says. “Everyone’s relationship with the divine is personal.”

St. Philips, and models of what it may have looked like when intact, can be seen at the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site north of Southport. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

St. Philips Church

Royal Gov. Arthur Dobbs designated St. Philips Church — built between 1754 and 1768 in the major Cape Fear colonial port of Brunswick Town — as His Majesty’s Chapel. “That means that if the King of England ever came to North Carolina, this is where he was going to church,” says Jim McKee, site manager at the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site. Dobbs was later buried inside the church, in a place of honor near the chancel. It is believed that the infant son of the next royal governor, William Tryon, is buried near him.

A slate shingle believed to have been part of the church’s roof was found near St. Philips by former State Archaeologist Stanley South. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

In the hundreds of years since its construction, the walls of St. Philips have survived attacks by both man and nature. The church was burned during or shortly after the Revolutionary War. Nearly a century later, the north wall served as a backstop for target practice by Confederate soldiers stationed at Fort Anderson. “During the war,
[the church] was so well built that several large-caliber Union naval shells bounced off it,” McKee says. The church has endured major hurricanes and even a direct hit by a tornado in 2020. Although the roof, windows, and interior have been destroyed, the almost three-foot-thick brick walls stand firm, surrounding a once-sacred space that’s now open to the heavens.

This story was published on Mar 30, 2023