University of Pittsburgh
November 14, 2013

Celebrating a University and Community Treasure

196 couples to renew marriage vows Nov. 23 at Pitt’s Heinz Memorial Chapel
Event marks chapel’s 75th anniversary

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—Married couples from as far away as Pleasanton, Calif., will be on the University of Pittsburgh campus Nov. 23 for a group renewal of their wedding vows, as part of an elaborate celebration marking the 75th anniversary of the construction of Heinz Memorial Chapel. Honorable Max Baer, Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a Pitt alumnus, will officiate.

Heinz Memorial Chapel under construction

The iconic neo-Gothic chapel was dedicated on Nov. 20, 1938. The first wedding was held there in 1946. Now, approximately 200 weddings take place there every year, in addition to concerts, lectures, memorial services, classes, dance performances, and other events. As intended from the beginning, the chapel is interdenominational.

Those who registered to renew their wedding vows there Nov. 23 include many couples who met while they were students at Pitt. Music for the renewal of vows will be provided by organist Bill Goff and vocalist Jennifer Russell. Afterwards, some participants will attend a reception and dinner. The evening culminates with a special anniversary concert.

The celebration comprises these events:

2:30-4:15 p.m.
The chapel is open for a photo opportunity. A professional photographer will be on hand to take photos of the couples, or participants may bring their own cameras.

4:30-5 p.m.
Honorable Max Baer, Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a Pitt alumnus, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Pitt in 1971, will preside over the group renewal of vows.

8 p.m.
75th Anniversary Concert
Performance by The OvreArts Sinfonia and Chamber Singers, under the direction of Ryan Keeling. OvreArts is the resident chamber ensemble of Heinz Memorial Chapel.

About Heinz Memorial Chapel
Heinz Memorial Chapel began as a gift. Henry John Heinz, the founder of the H.J. Heinz Company, wanted to honor his mother, Anna Margaritta Heinz, with “a building” at the University.

Mr. Heinz, who died in 1919, arranged to do that in his will. Mr. Heinz’s three surviving children added to his bequest to memorialize their grandmother and honor their father. The children were guided in their choice of a memorial by the concepts of education and religion, which Anna Margaritta Heinz imbued in her children.

GroundHeinz Memorial Chapel under construction was broken for the chapel in 1933, the cornerstone was laid in 1934, and the building was dedicated in 1938. The chapel’s 73-foot transept windows, designed by Charles Connick and created at his Boston studio, are among the tallest in the world. They represent the character traits of tolerance, courage, temperance, and truth. A symbol of each trait is in the tracery. The windows, which highlight an equal number of women and men, contain sacred and secular figures from history, literature, and science. A rosette above each set of windows contains a red-winged seraph on the north and a blue-winged cherub on the south.

The chapel is open daily throughout the year except for University holidays and hosts approximately 1,000 events annually. More than 100,000 people participate in religious services, weddings, concerts, classes, memorial services, and guided tours. Over the years, the chapel has hosted memorial services for the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz; for the mother of his widow, Teresa Heinz Kerry; and for the late Pitt Board of Trustees Chair and Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy.

Many simply seek the chapel’s peace and beauty as a refuge. On Sept. 11, 2001, when the Pitt campus was ordered to shut down due to the terrorist attacks, the chapel was the last Pitt building to close its doors for the day.

A scene from the 1992 movie Lorenzo’s Oil was filmed in the chapel.

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