By Kelly Wise Valdes
In honor of America’s Independence Day, this edition of Faith and Footprints will explore the breathtaking Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The chapel was completed in 1963, and is considered one of the most beautiful examples of modern American architecture. The Cadet Chapel was awarded the American Institute of Architects’ National 25-Year Award in 1996 and was named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2004. The chapel was also recently named one of CNN’s most epic churches in America.
The construction costs for the shell of the chapel and surrounding grounds was $3.5 million. The interior, decorations, pipe organs and other miscellaneous designs of the interior were donated by numerous individuals and organizations. A special Easter offering was taken at Air Force bases around the world in 1959 to help fund completion of the interior.
The outside of this incredible chapel features aluminum, glass and steel structures with 17 spires that closely resemble fighter jets soaring 150 ft. into the sky. Inside of the Cadet Chapel contains a 1,200-seat Protestant chapel, a 500-seat Catholic chapel and 100-seat Jewish chapel, plus two multi-faith rooms. Each chapel has a separate entrance that allows multiple services to take place simultaneously without interfering with one another.
The Protestant Chapel, located on the upper level, has a 99-foot-high pinnacled ceiling and stained glass windows. Around the curved steps of the altar are 12 needle-point kneeling cushions, handmade by officer’s wives’ clubs throughout the Air Force. The pews are walnut and mahogany, carved so the end of each pew resembles a World War I airplane propeller. The backs of the pews are capped by a strip of aluminum similar to the edge of a fighter aircraft wing.
The Catholic Chapel, on the main level, has walls of amber glass panels and a white Italian marble altar. The altar was a gift from the late Francis Cardinal Spellman, who dedicated the Cadet Chapel in 1963.
The Jewish Chapel is also on the main level and is circular-shaped within a square, representing the global mission of the Air Force and the eternal presence of God. The foyer is paved with 1,631 pieces of Jerusalem stone donated by the Israeli Defense Forces.
This historical and awe-inspiring chapel is well-worth the trip for those visiting the Colorado Springs area. The Visitor’s Center and Cadet Chapel are open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., excluding holidays chapel tours are available. Visit www.usafa.af.mil/Leadership/ChaplainCorps/CadetChapel.aspx.