The Chapel of St. Ignatius is Seattle University's main chapel and primarily hosts our Roman Catholic liturgies.

A Gathering of Different Lights

Architect Steven Holl chose "A Gathering of Different Lights" as the guiding concept for the design of the Chapel of St. Ignatius. This metaphor describes Seattle University's mission and it also refers to St. Ignatius vision of the spiritual life as comprising many interior lights and darknesses, which he called consolations and desolations.

Holl conceived of the chapel as "seven bottles of light in a stone box," with each bottle or vessel of light corresponding to a focal aspect of Catholic worship. Light passes through each bottle in a specific area of the building to define physical and spiritual spaces with pools of clear and colored light.

Chapel SpaceColor FieldLens
Processional Area White Clear
Narthex Red Green
Choir Green Red
Nave East / West Yellow Blue Blue Yellow
Blessed Sacrament Chapel Orange Purple
Reconciliation Chapel Purple Orange
Bell Tower / Reflection Pool Natural light Water

During the day each part of the Chapel of St. Ignatius will glow with colored light from two sources. Light bouncing off color fields painted on the back of suspended baffles creates a halo of light on the surrounding walls, while light passing through colored glass lenses in the exterior windows and openings in the baffles casts onto the chapel walls and floor. Interior lighting will create a similar effect at night, transforming the chapel into a beacon of multicolored light radiating outward to the campus and city.

Design and Construction

The chapel design and construction have, from the outset, been focused on the spiritual needs of students. Students contributions were central to the design process. "I think there has been more student input on this job than any other university project I have done," said Holl. Student comments helped anchor the design, and according to Holl, the result was "a design that would be forward looking, but anchored in the past."

Most of the building's furnishings and architectural details were designed by the architect and fabricated by local artisans.


Holl's plan for the Chapel of St. Ignatius won a design award from the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and the scale model of the chapel has been selected to become part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.