St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, also known as the Chapel on the Rock, is a functioning Catholic chapel and historic landmark in Allenspark, Colorado, 65 miles north of Denver. The chapel is located on the grounds of the Saint Malo Retreat, Conference and Spiritual Center of the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver. This iconic chapel draws in locals and tourists alike from around the world.
The chapel sits on top of a sacred rock. For nearly 85 years, St. Catherine’s has stood the test of time and survived weather hardships including fires and floods. It’s not only set in a beautiful landscape among the mountains and forest, but it is also a spectacular representation of stonework and craftsmanship.
In the early 20th century, a man by the name of William McPhee owned the land that the church currently sits on. McPhee was a parishioner of the Cathedral parish in Denver, and he often allowed the church to take kids hiking and camping on his property.
During one of those trips, several campers saw a meteorite or shooting star that had appeared to hit the earth. They went looking for it and came upon the rock that now stands as the foundation of the church. The chapel would not be built until 1935, and only after struggles with the Colorado Highway Department who wanted to use the rock for a road base.
Over the years, thousands of visitors have stopped at the chapel to pray and to enjoy its simplicity and beauty. It is framed against the majestic Mount Meeker at 13,911 feet. The view of the structure from a distance is remarkably stunning, and a closer examination reveals intricate stonework. While the exterior is particularly striking, the interior is just as remarkable and contains impressive statues carved in Italy, as well as stained glass from Germany.
During his visit to Colorado for World Youth Day in 1993, Pope St. John Paul II prayed and blessed the chapel. He also hiked along the trails on the Camp St. Malo property. Later the trail was renamed the John Paul II Trail. In 1999, Boulder County designated the chapel an historic site.
In 2011, the 60,000-square-foot conference center behind the church was burned to the ground in a devastating fire; however, St. Catherine’s remained unscathed.
Another disaster struck in 2013 when 100-year rains produced flooding and a five-mile-long landslide that began at Mount Meeker and ended at the foot of the chapel. Flooding and mudslides caused significant damage to property; the surrounding landscape, including the historic Pope John Paul II Trail, was destroyed, but the chapel was once again miraculously spared.
The Archdiocese of Denver announced in 2015 plans to renovate St. Catherine’s, which closed the chapel for more than 18 months.
St. Catherine of Siena Chapel is now open to visitors daily, with services conducted on Wednesdays. For more information, visit www.campstmalo.org.