To view pictures taken during the construction of Thorncrown Chapel, we recommend the University of Arkansas' Fay Jones Collection. Click here to visit.
Nestled in a woodland setting, Thorncrown Chapel rises forty-eight feet into the Ozark sky. This magnificent wooden structure contains 425 windows and over 6,000 square feet of glass. It sits atop over 100 tons of native stone and colored flagstone, making it blend perfectly with its setting. The chapel's simple design and majestic beauty combine to make it what critics have called "one of the finest religious spaces of modern times."
Thorncrown was the dream of Jim Reed, a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In 1971 Jim purchased the land which is now the site of the chapel to build his retirement home. However, other people admired his location and would often stop at his property to gain a better view of the beautiful Ozark hills. Instead of fencing them out, Jim decided to invite them in. One day while walking up the hill to his house, the idea came to him that he and his wife should build a glass chapel in the woods to give wayfarers a place to relax in an inspiring way.
Shortly thereafter Jim met E. Fay Jones, a professor at the university of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Much to Jim's surprise, Jones was quick to accept the proposal to design the chapel. On March 23, 1979 the construction crew broke ground on the mountain side. Jim's dream looked like it would soon be a reality.
However, half way through the project, funds began to run out. Soon the building process ground to a halt. In his own words, it looked like Jim had made "...the biggest mistake of my life." He desperately tried to raise the necessary funds to complete his dream, but all of his efforts failed.
Finally, one evening Jim took what he thought would be one last walk down to his half-finished chapel. He would take one last look and never return. Then the unexpected happened.
He said, "I am not proud of the fact, but the first time I ever got down on my knees was on the chapel floor. I prayed more seriously than ever before. All the trials and tribulations gave me the humility to get on my knees."
This was a turning point in Jim's life and in the construction of the chapel. In a few short days all the money Jim needed was made available. On July 10, 1980 Thorncrown Chapel opened. Since then over six million people have visited this little chapel on the hillside. Thorncrown has won numerous architectural awards. It has been featured on television programs such as NBC Nightly News and the 700 Club. Almost every major magazine in the country has carried a story about the chapel including Time, Newsweek, and Parade.
Thorncrown Chapel is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. It is located on Highway 62 West three miles outside of Eureka Springs. There is no admission fee, but donations are accepted. Every tour group will receive a presentation telling the story of the chapel followed by an inspirational song by one of the Thorncrown musicians. There is ample parking for buses and RVs. So, while in the Ozarks, stop by what many have called one of the most beautiful and inspiring chapels in the world. It will be a visit you will not soon forget.