Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

All Souls Chapel in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

August 31st, 2009, Promulgated by Choir

All Soul’s Chapel, built in 1876, has become the centerpiece of Holy
Sepulchre cemetery. Designed by Andrew Jackson Warner, it was a
small but graceful building measuring 40′ x70′. Warner was one of
Rochester’s most prominent architects, having been the architect
in residence for the building of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and
designer of the addition to the cathedral and Our Lady Chapel.
He also designed the buildings of St. Bernard’s Seminary.

The style he selected for the chapel was Early English Gothic, with a
steep slate roof, and built of Medina stone from a local quarry. The
building was planned and completed in three phases, over a ten-year

Phase I

The first phase was the construction of the below-ground undercroft,
which was needed for the storage of bodies, when the winter weather
prevented the hand digging of graves. A crypt for the bishops of the
diocese was also provided there, and was in use until the mid 1930’s.

Phase II
The second phase was the completion of the main floor of the chapel
itself, which was done as money became available. In 1885 it was
completed. Some of the interior design features of the chapel were
the attractive supporting hammer beams and the carved wood frames
for the memorial plaques, the handiwork of Dominic Mura, a local

The stained glass windows picturing the fourteen Stations of the
Cross were made in the Studios of P. Nicolas in Roermond, Holland.
He also designed the rose window with Bishop McQuaid’s coat of arms
as the centerpiece and the two lancet windows on the facade of the

The handsome white marble altar, trimmed in black marble, stands on
a base of pink Tennessee marble. It was designed and built by the
Hall Company of Boston and was a gift given by the faithful of the

The bishop stipulated that each donation was not to exceed $.25,
thus making it possible for everyone to participate in this
magnificent gift. The stenciling and gold leafing of the hammer
beams and the painting of the ceiling panels, with their pictorial
symbols and icons of the passion of Christ, as well as other
religious symbols, highlight the magnificent interior decoration
of the chapel. Not much is known concerning the artist, other than
his name, Chester F. Leiderson; but his work, after all
these years stands as a tribute to his craftsmanship and
artistic ability.

Over the years, the chapel has served many purposes, other than
as a committal chapel for burials. In the early days, services
were held for the faithful from nearby neighborhoods and as an
interim church building for newly developing parishes in the
adjacent areas. It is still very much in use today as a
committal chapel. A monthly memorial mass is said there for all
the deceased in the cemetery, from October to May each year,
and in the other remaining months, the mass is said in the St.
Bernard’s Chapel in All Saints Mausoleum on the cemetery grounds.
The building has been meticulously cared for and renovated over the
years to remain the architectural gem that it is today.
All Saints Mausoleum
The Chapel

The Chapel Tower — Phase III

The third and last phase, completed in 1886, was the addition of the
magnificent 110-foot tower, topped with a bronze rooster weather vane,
symbolizing St. Peter’s denying of Christ as the cock crowed. The original
plan called for a bell in the tower, along with a water tank for irrigation,
but these were never installed.

In 2000, some 114 years later, a large bronze bell became available
when a chapel building closed. It had been dedicated to the memory
of Bishop McQuaid after his death in 1909. It was made available by
the diocese to the cemetery, which arranged to have it moved,
restored and placed in the tower. It now speaks, along with the 1980
carillon, and can be heard by visitors throughout the East Division.
Sometimes, when the wind is just right, it can be heard on the other
side of the Genesee River.

In the 1930’s Archbishop Edward A. Mooney, the bishop of the diocese,
built a lovely new six-crypt mausoleum of white Vermont marble,
in the base of the tower. It is used as the resting place for the
bishops of the diocese. Since not all of the bishops of Rochester
Diocese are entombed in this mausoleum, a handsome bronze memorial
plaque for all the bishops who did serve, was placed at the base of
the tower. Those not buried here are Cardinal Mooney in Detroit,
Michigan, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in
New York City and Bishop Joseph Hogan in St. Rose’s Cemetery in his
boyhood hometown of Lima, New York.

In 1983, the bronze statue of Bishop McQuaid, which was erected on
the grounds of St. Bernard’s Seminary in 1929, was moved to the
cemetery grounds, shortly after St. Bernard’s Seminary closed.
It is now located at the base of the chapel tower. This impressive
statue was designed in the Joseph Sibbel Studios of New York City
and cast in bronze in Italy. It was given in memory of the bishop
by the clergy of the diocese.

For many years, the chapel was the focus of the annual ceremony of
the blessing of the graves. Bishop McQuaid early decided to intro-
duce this European custom of All Souls’ Day. He began on November
1, 1876. The Bishop and clergy first sang the Office of the Dead
inside the chapel; then McQuaid addressed the crowds from the
chapel steps; finally he processed about the grounds sprinkling the
graves with holy water.

Unfortunately, November proved too chilly a month to be popular and
was changed to September with a notably increased in attendance.
Only during World War II did the crowds decrease, because of the
gasoline shortage. Continuity was broken, and the last blessing of
the graves took place in 1966 witnessed by no more than 200 visitors.



2 Responses to “All Souls Chapel in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey Choir, is this chapel open any other times besides the seasonal Masses once every so often Masses?

  2. The chapel is usually locked. But I find if you go to the office on the west side of Lake Avenue and ask to get in to see the chapel, they have always sent someone over within a few minutes. It is definitely worth taking a look at. You'll marvel at the altar of sacrifice. The stenciling and stained-glass windows are all very old world European. The windows are Dutch and very vivid in there depictions.

    We had a solemn Tridentine Latin vespers service for the dead in the chapel once on a chilly, early Novemeber afternoon about 4 p.m. It was done with dim lights and the unbleached candles on the altar. Very sobering. Catholicism is just so great, it appeals to all the senses.

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