The Nash Chapel is a quiet jewel, the only private mortuary chapel within the Cathedral. The small, square space is bathed with light from two stained-glass lunettes, east and west. The castilian red panes are decorated with rosettes. Overhead, the groin-vaulted ceiling is encrusted with mosaic arabesques in black and gold as is the apsidial dome. In the ceiling's center hangs a crystal chandelier from the Nash home. On either side of the Pavonazza marble altar are statues of Mary of the Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph with the Christ Child, cared in wood by Polasek. The chapel also houses a painting The Virgin Immaculata which is part of the Spanish Colonial Art Collection. Below the floor are the burial vaults faced with stone and bronze and reached by the private stairway to the right of the chapel.
Above the entrance to the Nash Chapel is the painting of an Italian Vincentian, Venerable Felix de Andreis. He was born in 1778 in the small Italian town of Demonte. Fr. Andreis was blessed with extraordinary intellectual gifts. After his ordination and studies in theology, his brilliance was so evident, he was immediately appointed a professor in the same institution where he had studied. His reputation also reached the attention of Pope Pius VII. Fr. Andreis, however; wished only for obscurity. His dream of mission service was fulfilled when he was appointed to the Diocese of Louisiana in 1815. He labored untiringly at the task of training seminarians. He died in 1820. In 1918 Pope Benedict XV introduced his case for beatification.
Located in the Nash Chapel alcove, from the Cathedral Art Collection, are two paintings by Brother William Woeger, F.S.C. Christ of the Gospel (2000), in the style of a Byzantine icon; and Saint Cecilia (2002). The latter was commissioned by The Saint Cecilia Schola Cantorum.
The Nash Chapel (December 2012) by Father Michael Gutgsell
The earliest public presentations of Saint Cecilia Cathedral, known in its earliest years as the “New Cathedral”, did not show a Nash Chapel. For anyone familiar with the Cathedral in the present time the Nash Chapel is a small, quiet chapel space between the stairs to the choir loft and the south entrance to the parking lot. Its vaulted mosaic arabesque ceiling has a crystal chandelier hanging over the center of the square room.
Although the marble walls lack decoration there are two lunette shaped stained glass windows high above the floor on the east and west sides of the chapel. The movement of the sun plays across these rosette filled glass windows bringing subtle changes to the character of the room throughout the day. As each corner of our Cathedral is breathtaking beautiful in its own way, so is the Nash Chapel.
The July 6, 1902 edition of the Omaha Bee newspaper published a drawing of the floor plan for the Cathedral with an accompanying description: “A large winter chapel is at the left of the side entrance, where the transept of the Gothic cathedral is usually found. … The plan provides for nineteen private chapels.”
The April 29, 1904 edition of The True Voice, the Catholic newspaper of the Diocese of Omaha, provided an update to the evolving design of the “New Cathedral”: “The small memorial chapels which surrounded the apse, occupying the space between the great buttresses, have disappeared. Two large memorial chapels are shown on either side of the nave proper, and the adjacent space is available for four others should they be called for. Some later development of the plan might also re-embody the apsidal chapels already referred to.”
The “large memorial chapels” mentioned in the description were drawn as round structures of equal area, about one-third of the way up the body of the church, on the north and south side of the nave. There were no names assigned to either chapel.
The October 4, 1907 edition of The True Voice presented a refined drawing of the “New Cathedral”. For the first time there appears one chapel, on the south side of the nave. Its name: “Nash Chapel”.
Marking the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Catholic newspaper of the Diocese of Omaha, The True Voice, in its specially bound December 5, 1913 edition, presented its lead article on the topic of the continuing construction of “The New Saint Cecilia’s Cathedral”.
In the fourth paragraph of a full page story the following description is found: “On the other end of the main structure there is room for private mortuary chapels to be constructed of the same material as the cathedral itself and to harmonize with the general plan. Donors of $25,000 to the cathedral fund may secure the privilege of erecting a chapel. Up to the present time only one of these chapels has been erected – the Nash chapel on the south side just east of the tower. The chapel is of fireproof construction in all particulars in character with the mother church. Practically the whole interior will be finished in marble and bronze. On the east and west sides of the crypt there are burial vaults, faced with stone and bronze, reached by a private stairway and lighted by a bullseye in the mosaic above.”
The Jesuit historian, Henry Casper, assembled a considerable number of notes forty years later, regarding the “New Cathedral”; some were taken from documents and archives and some were gathered through personal interviews.
One interview, taken in August, 1954, indicated that “Mrs. Edward Nash gave $50,000 for the privilege of building a chapel. Then the Nash family in addition paid the cost of the chapel. In the crypt of the chapel there are places for thirty some (the actual numberis 38)interments, this is why it is called the Nash funeral chapel.”
Among Casper’s notes are indications of contributors and donor to the building of the Cathedral. Mrs. C. B. Nash’s name appears as early as 1908 with a $10,000 notation, and at 1910 with a $10,000 notation and a third entry with a $5,000 notation.
A bronze plaque on the left side pillar of the entry arch of the Nash Chapel contains a simple inscription: Nash Chapel 1930. There was no public news coverage of the completion or the dedication of the chapel in the Cathedral parish or the Archdiocesan archives. However, the chapel has the distinction of being the first fully completed area in the construction of the Cathedral.
Mass is offered in the Nash Chapel once a year — on or near the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, November 2. Relatives in the Nash family line gather for this annual Mass for remembrance of their forbearers. Besides Catherine and E.W. Nash there are the five Nash children. Louis, the son, had his wife and two children interred in the crypt. Stryker and Crofoot are two other names identifying remaining members of the family tree. A total of 19 interments have taken place over the years. The last interment was 2004.
Over the years many individuals have found the quiet and simple, visual beauty of this “jewel of a spot” a perfect place to be still or to pray. Groups have gathered in this same space, some on a regular basis. The chapel is also a space where caskets are placed prior to funeral Masses so that final viewing might take place.
During January the annual Cathedral Arts Project flower festival allows florists and artists to decorate the space with imaginative creations. During the course of the year two large framed paintings, from the Spanish Colonial Art collection, adorn the marble walls. In celebration of the feast of Christmas the Nash Chapel is the chosen space for the parish Christmas Nativity crèche.
Although the early hopes for the Cathedral included multiple chapels only one was realized — the Nash Chapel.
This is not a diminishment but a wonderful example of the words spoken by Archbishop John Ireland, who traveled from Saint Paul Minnesota to deliver the major address at the laying of the cornerstone on October 6, 1907. Among his words the following stand out: “The Cathedral belongs to all the Catholics of the diocese. It must be built by all. None should there be who will not, at its completion be able to say – it is mine: I have paid the price from my heart’s love, from the gold and silver the Lord has given to me. How much each one must do in the building of the Cathedral, each one must answer for himself. If means are slender, let the gift be small: where faith and love do their utmost, the merit before God is not reduced by the smallness of the offering. If the offering is ampler, let the gift be ampler: else, faith is weak and love is cold. The offering is to God; God measures and rewards the gift.”
Our Lady of Nebraska Chapel
Our Lady of Nebraska Chapel opens off the North Entrance of the Cathedral. In the gentle curve of the apse above a marble altar stands the Madonna of Corn. In her graceful hands, she holds a stalk and ear of corn, symbolic of her solicitude for the material as well as the spiritual well-being of the faithful of the state. The backdrop is a celestial garden painted in buon secco of night blue, rose, and gold stars. The statue was carved of Carrara marble by Arthur E. Lorenzani from a full-size plaster model created by Polasek.
The organ in the loft was built by Bedient Pipe Organ Company and installed in 1998. It is dedicated to the memory of Robert G. Miller, cantor and organist at the Cathedral. Horizontally mounted Dulcaina pipes, characteristic of Spanish organs in the seventeenth century, are a distinctive feature of this organ.
The small chapel is softly lit by north light filtered through three sixteenth-century stained glass windows, originally in the Cathedral of Pamplona, Spain. Saint Christopher, whose name means Christbearer, lifts the child Jesus onto his shoulder. Saint Mary Magdalene carries the jar of ointment with which she anointed the feet of Christ. Saint Barbara holds her tower prison and martyr's palm.
Our Lady Of Nebraska Chapel Is Repaired (April 2015) by Father Michael Gutgsell
A Cathedral is a place of big spaces — a nave with soaring vaults, aisles with length and breath, windows and sculptures with height and proportion. A Cathedral is also a place of small spaces — a prayer shrine tucked in a corner, a diminutive statue on a pedestal, a daily Mass chapel at a side entrance. Saint Cecilia Cathedral has all of these.
Our daily Mass chapel has its own name, Our Lady of Nebraska, and its own unique statue, Our Lady of the Corn. In addition to decades of special Masses, prayer services and other gatherings Our Lady of Nebraska Chapel gathers people twice a day every week for scheduled parish Mass.
Over the past 18 months the external roof of the Chapel has received particular attention for the purpose of finding and repairing pesky leaks and imperfections which have damaged the interior ceiling repeatedly for years.
In January of 2015 a contract was signed for the interior ceiling restoration work and a complete repainting of the repaired ceiling. In addition, a new lighting arrangement will complement the ceiling.
The four vaults of the chapel no longer have a dark blue color. The ceiling ribs are no longer mauve. Instead, the white vaults are off-set with ribs of red and blue out lined with gold leaf. LED lighting, at the base of each rib, will illuminate the entire ceiling, aiding the sconces on each wall. LED lighting will brighten the altar area and will throw new light upward on the statue of Our Lady of the Corn behind the altar.
This project was begun the week prior to Lent and was completed the last week of March. This project was funded by money from the estates of siblings, Robert and Madelyne Sechser, and memorial donations in remembrance of Dr. John D. Hartigan.
On the north side of the Cathedral, through bronze balusters, one can see the baptism font at the far end of the baptistry, two steps below the floor level. Light from the two stained glass windows glints on the bronze figures of John the Baptist with the young Christ crowning the font cover. Colored marble intricately encircles the white Carrara basin. The barrel-vaulted ceiling of the baptistry is filled with symbolic ornament ornately painted in fresco al secco. Since Vatican II, and the advent of face-to-face confession, the room has been serving a dual role--that of reconciliation room and baptistry.
~The Beauty of Thy House, 2005