St. Luke’s Chapel verges on completion

St. Luke’s Chapel verges on completion

The restoration of St. Luke’s Chapel, a historic gem nestled within the campus of St. John St. James Episcopal Church in Roxbury, is a testament to the commitment of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and the parish of St. John St. James to preserving history and fostering community engagement. As the project nears completion, the congregation and surrounding community anticipate its use for arts and community gatherings, and as the continued home to the longtime faith congregation.  

Constructed in 1903, based on the plans of Ralph Adams Cram, a luminary in ecclesiastical architecture, St. Luke’s Chapel originally served as a sanctuary for the convalescence home once located in adjacent Ionic Hall (1801). The transition of Ionic Hall and St. Luke’s Chapel into the home of St. John St. James Church in 1968 marked the beginning of a new chapter in its storied existence. However, the chapel fell into disrepair, beset by structural issues and deterioration, culminating in its closure.

Recognizing the chapel’s historical value and potential as a community beacon, a phased restoration initiative commenced in 2020. Spearheaded by Lynne Spencer and Doug Hanley of the architectural firm Spencer Preservation and executed by contractor Gerard O’Doherty, the restoration honors the chapel’s history while integrating modern amenities that ensure it will continue to function for future generations. The project has benefitted from generous financial support from both the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and the City of Boston, through Community Preservation Act funds, underscoring the widespread recognition of the chapel’s significance.

St. Luke’s structural and aesthetic features have been renewed. The replacement of the roof, restoration of the walls, and the excavation of the basement to accommodate new heating and cooling systems, along with the addition of a kitchenette, bathrooms, and a meeting space, are pivotal to the chapel’s revival. Notably, the lower-level space will be accessible via stairs and a lift, ensuring access for all visitors.

A highlight of the current work is the meticulous attention to restoration of the chapel’s sanctuary. The historic windows – clear historic windows restored by Jim Anderson and figurative stained glass windows by Serpentino Stained Glass – are complete. The reredos and paneling, originally crafted by the renowned Boston woodcarver Johannes Kirchmayer in the early 20th century, have been beautifully conserved by Christine Thompson and Wenda Kochanowski. These efforts reconnect the chapel with its artistic and spiritual heritage.


The forthcoming installation of a re-created wooden door, inspired by the original medieval-revival design, symbolizes the chapel’s rebirth and its readiness to welcome the parish and community once more. The church anticipates completion of the entire restoration in early summer, heralding a new era for St. Luke’s Chapel as spiritual home for its congregation and as a vibrant center for community gatherings, meetings, and performances.

In restoring St. Luke’s Chapel, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the parish of St. John St. James, and all involved in theproject have rejuvenated a cornerstone of community and spirituality in Roxbury. Stay tuned for updates on the final phase of construction on St. Luke’s Chapel.