Wednesday, June 24, 2009

E. Fay Jones: Marty Leonard Chapel (Interior)

(All rights reserved 2009) The following photos are all my own work, but are free for non-commercial use so long as I am credited. Larger, uncropped, higher resolution images are available upon request. Please contact me if you have a desire to use them in any commercial work.

In part two of this week's main photo spread, we explore the interior of E. Fay Jone's "Marty Leonard Chapel" and witness the sublime beauty within. If you have not yet seen the exterior photos of the chapel, please see Part One of this spread by clicking here.

As one steps through the door of the Marty Leonard Chapel, there is an ever present aura of peace and light. The glass ceiling and crossbeams overhead illuminates the floor with a light grid all the way from the nave to the bema. The saltire "X" pattern is used to great effect in nearly every glassed area of the chapel, the exception being the slanted casings shown in yesterday's exterior footage. From within, at this angle, the slanted window casings give each side a complimentary column of half-chevrons made of light. The effect of the concentrated light is unmistakable: the focus should be upon those who walk up or down the aisle, and those who stand before it. Though the congregation is certainly not left in darkness, their presence is quietly muted from eyesight.

This is achieved through an extremely intricate pattern of crossing saltire beams in the vault. Rather than using arches, Jones has supported the weight of the ceiling through an incredible number of precisely placed triangles which from one angle appear organic and chaotic...

...and yet from another angle, snap into orderly patterns that mesmerize and crystallize. The subtext of finding order in chaos, of patterns in nature, and the sanctity of space.

As the crossing is approached, the transepts are beautifully realized, and yet remain far enough off to the side that they are hidden from view except for those actively looking at them. The power of the "light grid" on the floor is such that the eye wishes to look at the altar, not those sitting to the far left and right of it.

The corner of the transepts use a great deal of indirect lighting to counteract the contrasting darkness of being outside the nave. One way this is achieved without drawing attention to either side is by turning the corners into long windows with the slanted panes seen earlier. Then, a subtle brick column in front lends depth as well as a block against the direct light. The space also creates a quiet spot for an usher to wait comfortably, or perhaps for a congregant to unobtrusively move from the nave to the transept, blocked from view by both.

Past the crossing, upon the bema, looking forward towards the nave, the officiant is treated to nearly as beautiful a sight, with the slanted window casings creating full chevrons to either side just before the transepts begin. And if one looks upward from this angle...

...the most beautiful, illuminated view of the vault is seen. Again, the symbolism of the layout and position of the sun cannot be lost. From the congregation's point of view, the focus is on the officiant and the altar. From the officiant's point of view, the focus is on the heavens. It stands to reason that one who devotes their life to their god would have a better view of the heavenly demesne.

Much like Frank Lloyd Wright, E. Fay Jones designed every aspect of the building, down to the even the light fixtures. This theme for the light fixture remains consistent throughout most of the chapel, and is used to great effect as an object of beauty, light, and shadow.

To either side of the balcony is a pair of windows that carries another very thematic shape through the structure. On the house left, pictured above, is a tiny sound and lighting booth where tech crew can keep an eye on the house to catch their cues.

On the house right, the window helps to illuminate a stairwell leading up to the balcony.

The door frames leading to the balcony are a great counterpoint to the windows, while at the same time being vaguely recognizable as a religious shape, without being specific enough to decide what kind.

The view from the balcony is incredible, even more colorful than the view from the primary level.

Even the tiny stairwell leading up to the sound and lighting booth, is planned with great care to provide the utmost aesthetic quality, while at the same time providing ample light to see by.

From the sound and lighting booth, yet another perspective on the ceiling helps one to appreciate just how intricate a work of art it is.

The Marty Leonard Community Chapel
provides a serene setting where the
youth of Lena Pope Home can give and
receive acceptance and forgiveness,
develop character, understand the
unexplainable, accept the unaccept-
-able, forgive the unforgivable, de-
velop and refine a moral values
system, and seek peace and a new

The Chapel provides a peaceful place
where the youth can let down their
walls and where they can surrender
and relinquish control of their lives
to a higher power that will not aban-
don them, will not abuse them, will not
judge them, but will love them no mat-
ter what, and forever.

This interfaith chapel provides an
uplifting environment that inspires
people to think their highest and best
thoughts. It is a place for worship, in-
spiration, prayer, guidance, celebra-
tion, joy, meditation, hope, relaxation,
research, education, music, and spiri-
tual enrichment.
Mission Statement

The office on the lower level even has a desk and trash cans designed by Jones as a part of its furnishings.

The reception hall within is modest, unassuming, and elegant in its simplicity. Indirect lighting above gives a soft, relaxing light. To the left are three photos of the Thorncrown Chapel, also designed by E. Fay Jones.

Lastly, the exit leading to the ambulatory is well-shaded, designed such that the mind is focused, and given a sense of purpose before leaving the sanctuary within. All around, The Chapel is probably one of the most beautiful works of architecture in Fort Worth, Texas, and is made even more so for me in that my wife and I were married here three years ago. I would heartily recommend this site for any ceremony, for its beauty, convenience, and friendly staff.

If you have not yet seen the exterior photos of The Chapel, please see yesterday's blog entry for the first half of the photo session.

Special thanks to the staff at Marty Leonard Chapel for the tour, warm welcome, and tolerance of my countless photographs. Anyone wishing to know more about The Chapel can visit their website at


  1. Absolutely spectacular photos, inside and out. Brandon you have really done a magnificent job. I've seen ALOT of photos of this chapel, these are some of my very favorite. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you very much! I had a great time taking the photos. My wife and I were married in this chapel, so we have a lot of love for the place. One day I hope to see the Thorn chapel in Arkansas that Faye did.


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