While Marquette University is not known as the most Catholic of places, it does boast one of the most interesting buildings in the United States. Originally known as Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel, this structure was a chapel initially built in Chasse, France in the early fifteenth century. While it’s hard to confirm for sure, some traditions hold that the stone inside the chapel was prayed on by Saint Joan of Arc, making it a third class relic and a site of veneration for Catholic pilgrims.
But, you might ask, how can this building be in the middle of the United States if it was built in France?
In brief, the story goes that architect Jacques Couëlle went through the town of Chasse in the early 1900s and upon discovering the chapel, fell in love with it and decided to restore the now disheveled building. Then, in 1926 a rich railroad owner’s daughter, Gertrude Hill Gavin, decided to buy the chapel, dissemble it, and have it shipped and reassembled all the way in Long Island New York. When the building was reconstructed, a Gothic altar was added along with the Joan of Arc Stone.
Later, in 1964, the ownership of the chapel fell to Mr. and Mrs. Marc B. Rojtman, who decided to donate the structure to the University of Marquette in Milwaukee. Which of course necessitated its being pulled apart and rebuilt again, this time in Wisconsin. By this time, the building was renamed the Saint Joan of Arc chapel, in honor of the saint who prayed there.
Marquette University describes the building as being (as far as they are aware), “the oldest building in the Western Hemisphere still used for its original purpose”. Which is an oddly specific, but poignant description. People still some to pray there, and mass is held Monday through Friday for those so inclined. I went there just this year with my family, and he would recommend stopping in if you ever pass through Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And if you want to learn more about the chapel’s history I would recommend the Marquette website, which has a more in depth exploration of the people involved in the various location changes of the chapel.