The original SSM requirement for the chapel was to have a building sympathetic to
unaccompanied sung services, which would be usable by both the SSM Community on a daily
basis, and could be used by larger numbers on special occasions. The spiritual emphasis of the
Christian life is inward looking and contemplative.
The emphasis held alongside the outward looking concern for society, the splendid views of the
Cathedral and the Priory’s relative isolation, lends itself to a unique scheme which embraces
both these themes.
The inspiration of the chapel was for a space rising heavenwards lit by clerestories and with
seating arrangements which focused around a centrally placed table.
Internally and externally construction is of a natural stone (Dunhouse Sandstone) with Welsh
slate roof. Green Westmorland slate is incorporated into the floor and tiered seating. In unity
with the remainder of the scheme the chapel seeks to emphasise the richness of simple form,
line and design together with durable materials.
Internally the chapel is circular with the altar in the centre. The altar is marked out as the
principal feature and the point of convergence in the chapel. With clarity, the altar stands in
stark simplicity. The space above the altar, its tower shape maybe regarded as an extension
upwards to God and the heavens. The difficulty with this circular spacial concept is that it
lacks direction. This is resolved by placing a glazed entrance door at one end and a high east
window and tabernacle at the other. Thus there is a feeling of movement within the whole
design. Light (both natural and electric) is over the most significant space, the altar.
The focus of the chapel and the mainstay of the SSM Community life is centered on the altar, a symbol of the presence of Christ, the daily feeding and meeting with Him. The altar is at the heart and centre of the worship and the centre and mission of the church. The gathered community seated around it, can both see the altar and hear the spoken or sung words of the liturgy. In other words the chapel exists to house the community as well as the altar. Both priest and servers function and operate in relation to the brothers they serve, they are not separated from them, they are part of the worshipping community.
St Antony's Priory Chapel
The chapel was built to accommodate unaccompanied singing and larger events. The emphasis is on looking inward, focused centrally to the altar, but glass on all sides to look outward to the world. The unique location near the city, but relatively isolated, helps to attain both these goals. The Chapel is used each day for midday prayer by the Team and guests and also by the larger numbers of individuals and groups who come to St Antony’s. It is the principle setting for all the Quiet Days and workshops and works very well for 4 or even 54 people.
Sarah Menin, Architect of the Chapel shares her thinking behind the design:
St Antony’s chapel was dedicated for use in 1992, the first monastic building to be constructed in Durham since the reformation. The chapel which is octagonal in shape, is designed as one homogeneous whole, on three levels, a ground floor garage, a first floor sacristy and storage area and the second floor chapel. The octagon shape may be symbolic of the believers co resurrection with Christ who was raised from the dead on what the fathers called the eight day, the first day of the week. The chapel is connected to the main building by a glassed ink. The link also follows the outside surface of the building to stairs down to the sacristy.