While the bones of Princeton University Chapel have changed little since its construction in the 1920s, the life of a building is told not only through its architecture but also through the people who use and occupy the building. And for the chapel that population has changed dramatically.
That is the rationale behind Princeton University Press’s August 4 reissuing of “The Chapel of Princeton University,” an architectural guide written by the late Princeton University architectural historian and professor Richard Stillwell in 1971. Stillwell, who died in 1982, was already a professor at the university when the chapel was completed in 1928, and he remained there until his retirement in 1967.
The updated edition, which features a foreword by dean of religious life and the chapel Alison Boden, does not alter any of Stillwell’s text, but rather updates the illustrations with color photographs by Noel Valero, a 1982 Princeton alumnus. In Stillwell’s day, users of the chapel were the all-male, nearly all-white students, and until 1964 attendance at daily chapel services at least twice a month was mandatory for the entire student body.
As Boden, who has held her post at Princeton since 2007, notes, those homogenous gatherings have been replaced by celebrations and ceremonies featuring a diverse student body practicing a wide range of religious and secular traditions.
“On the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of ‘The Chapel of Princeton University’ it is a privilege and great joy to reissue the book, which remains the authoritative resource on the fabric of this magnificent edifice. Professor Richard Stillwell’s meticulous research and comprehensive depictions of each area of the Chapel, the stonework, stained glass, woodwork, and overall design continue to support the work of scholars of architecture, literature, history, and other disciplines, at Princeton and around the world.
“Simultaneously, the book edifies the accidental and curious tourists as well as the spiritual seekers who wonder what inspiration the Chapel’s builders wanted them to find in even the tiniest details of its composition. A building as architecturally significant and spiritually meaningful as this one deserves a companion text that will do justice to the intentionality and integrity of its design, the profundity of its symbolism, and the timelessness of the vision of its builders. Richard Stillwell’s book continues to do all of this and more.
“This edition contains Stillwell’s original text without revisions. This is possible because the Chapel remains unchanged, not only since this book’s first publication in 1971 but also since the Chapel’s completion in 1928. Indeed, there is much about the Princeton University Chapel that is changeless, from the architecture and material embellishments to the deeply human reasons that so many people make their way into this sacred space. The Chapel remains the ceremonial center of the University, the home of such defining annual gatherings as Opening Exercises, the Service of Remembrance, and Baccalaureate. The vaulted arches of the great nave continue to receive the ascending prayers of those in crisis and those rejoicing, the perplexed, the lost, the hopeful, the faithful.
“Public worship brings together town and gown, the country and the world, to pray together and to be commissioned for service to humanity. Glorious music continues to draw us to the Chapel for concerts by the wonderful Princeton University Chapel Choir and on the magnificent 8,000 pipe Mander-Skinner organ. The most momentous issues in our common life literally summon us to the building in order that we may simply be together — upon the beginning or ending of war, at the assassination of President Kennedy, in the hours after the 9/11 attacks or massive earthquakes. At Princeton our Chapel remains vital to us simply because we need it.
“And yet, there is so much at the Chapel and the University that is constantly changing. This includes the composition of the campus community, and the expansion and diversification of our student body has necessarily expanded the daily uses of the University Chapel. I intentionally have left in this edition a plate from the first edition which Professor Stillwell intended to profile ‘the Apse.’ The photo does indeed show the apse but from a great distance, one that reveals the Chapel pews to be packed with young, white, male students in suit jackets, perhaps attending a mandatory academic convocation.
“Today’s Princeton student population is mixed in age, particularly thanks to our transfer and veterans’ programs, and to the Graduate School. It encompasses every racial and ethnic identity, every nationality, every gender expression, every imaginable idea of appropriately neat clothing, and every religion, the formal practice of which is no longer compulsory.
“This edition of Professor Stillwell’s book provides images of newer religious communities as they practice their faith, and yet this volume (dedicated as it is to the fabric of the building) cannot be comprehensive in capturing the great diversity of religious life within the Chapel’s walls. Regular Hindu worship is held in the chancel. Our strong and growing Muslim community makes the chapel its location for concerts, lectures, and religious services.
“His Holiness the Karmapa, among other global leaders in the Buddhist community, has provided teachings in the space. The nave’s great vaults have resonated with the chanted scriptures and prayers of Bah’ai, Sikh, Jewish, and Jain students, with secular humanist readings, and with Native American smudge ceremonies.”
Boden discusses the new edition of the book in an event hosted by Princeton Public Library and Princeton University Press on Monday, September 14, from 7 to 8 p.m. For more information visit princetonlibrary.org.
“The Chapel of Princeton University” is available on Amazon.com, $35.
Rissi’s latest is a dark twist on summer camp
Princeton-based children’s book author Anica Mrose Rissi is known for her light-hearted picture books and her Anna Banana chapter books for young readers, but she has also dabbled in young adult fiction, and her latest novel is aimed at that age group.
“Nobody Knows But You,” set to be released by HarperCollins on September 8, is a thriller that takes place in the aftermath of a summer camp session gone horribly awry. The story is told as a series of letters from Kayla, an awkward loner whose charismatic camp bunk-mate becomes her best friend.
The letters are written but never sent to Lainie, the best friend, and recount their summer at camp. Those memories include Lainie’s turbulent relationship with Jackson, a self-absorbed fellow camper; her loose relationship with the truth; and her penchant for skirting the rules and bringing her friends along with her. They continue through the story of the murder — or was it an accident? — that brought camp to an abrupt end.
Rissi will be one of many children’s authors participating in Princeton Public Library’s Book Jam, a virtual replacement for the annual Children’s Book Festival that typically takes place in September.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, children and their families are invited to interact with their favorite authors and illustrators via the Crowdcast platform. The free event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., includes 10 distinct sessions.
The schedule runs as follows:
11 a.m.: Illustrator Sketch-Off: Part One. Viewers can submit prompts for a panel of illustrators to draw in one- and two-minute intervals. Illustrator Ruth Chan hosts a panel including Sophie Blackall (“If You Come to Earth”); Patrick McDonnell (“Mutts”); and Mika Song (“Donut Feed the Squirrels”) who create drawings on the spot.
Noon: Telling Our Stories. Join a conversation with authors Eric Gansworth (“Apple (Skin to the Core)”); Darcie Little Badger (“Elatsoe”); and Daniel Nayeri (“Everything Sad Is Untrue”) as they discuss how their personal narratives inspire their work and the craft of storytelling in memoir and fiction. This session will be moderated by author Amy Jo Burns.
How to Raise a Reader. Maria Russo, children’s book editor at the New York Times, and Princeton-based author/publisher Margery Cuyler (“Skeleton for Dinner”) discuss ideas for engaging children of all ages in books, raising lifelong readers, and the overall landscape of children’s literature.
1 p.m.: Finding Your Voice. Middle grade authors Phil Bildner (“A High Five for Glenn Burke”); Hena Khan (“More to the Story”); Torrey Maldonado (“What Lane?”); and Janae Marks (“From the Desk of Zoe Washington”) discuss the art of writing courageous characters and what it means to overcome a challenge in order to become the hero of your own story.
Animal Antics. Would you rather have a stink bug for a best friend or a jaguar for an evil nemesis? Would you rather be raised by a pod of dolphins or a herd of elephants? Join Lauren Castillo (“Our Friend Hedgehog”); Beth Ferry (“Fox & Rabbit”); and Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg (“Astronuts Mission Two: The Water Planet”); as they play a wacky animal-themed game of “Would You Rather?” and discuss their new books.
2 p.m.: Illustrating Friendship. Join in on a conversation between long-time friends and fellow author/illustrators Airlie Anderson (“Neither”); Barbara DiLorenzo (“Quincy: The Chamelon Who Couldn’t Blend In”); and Victoria Jamieson (“When Stars Are Scattered”) as they discuss their work, building professional communities, and getting to do what they love as a career.
Reading with Pride. Everyone’s story deserves to be told and read. Young adult authors Phil Stamper (“The Gravity of Us”); Aiden Thomas (“Cemetery Boys”); and Ngozi Ukazu (“Check, Please: Sticks & Scones”) discuss with Robin Stevenson (Pride: The Celebration and the Struggle) how stories about the LGBTQ+ experience expand our world’s perspective.
3 p.m. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Book Jam. Find out what happens when middle grade authors Pablo Cartaya (“Each Tiny Spark”); Chris Grabenstein (“Mr. Lemoncello and the Titanium Ticket”); K.A. Holt (“Benbee and the Teacher Greifer”); and Mike Jung (“The Boys in the Back Row”) join forces to write an interactive story with help from the audience.
Keeping It Real! Readers who prefer fiction based in reality rather than far-off universes or dystopian futures can hear from Anna Birch (“I Kissed Alice”); Lamar Giles (“No So Pure and Simple”); Megan McCafferty (“The Mall”); and Anica Mrose Rissi (“Nobody Knows But You”) as they discuss their latest books.
4 p.m.: Illustrator Sketch-Off: Part Two. Ruth Chan returns to host a second set of illustrators as they draw on the fly in response to audience prompts. The drawing panel includes John Patrick Green (“Investigators”); Remy Lai (“Fly on the Wall”); Adam Rex (“On Account of the Gum”); and Gene Luen Yang (“Dragon Hoops”).
The event is free, and registration is not required. Book sales will be handled by JaZams, and some proceeds benefit the library. For more information visit princetonlibrary.org/childrens-book-festival.