Patricks Mortuary Chapel
in Madison restored, rededicated
chapel preserves memory of historic priest
Lela Jane Bradshaw
(December 2007) It was the largest funeral
that Madison, Ind., had ever seen. In 1874 when the first carriage in
the procession for Father Hyppolytus Dupontavice reached St. Patricks
Cemetery, the funeral train stretched almost three miles back to the
final carriage still waiting at St. Michaels Church.
provided by Michael Moore
Patricks Mortuary Chapel
was in obvious need of repair.
When Josie Fox of San Jose, Calif., came to Madison to
research the history of her family and St. Michaels Church, she
saw that time had not been kind to the mortuary chapel serving as the
resting place of the the beloved French priest. The tornado that swept
through the area in 1974 damaged the beautiful slate roof and internal
Since then, two refurbishments had taken place, but by 1991, it was
obvious that additional work needed to be done. Drainage issues, vandals
and time itself had all taken a toll on the structure. Water had begun
leaking into the foundation, and plaster had torn away, exposing the
brick below. Fox, who has close to 100 relatives buried in the grounds
surrounding the chapel, approached church officials about the possibility
of repairing the structure. Foxs donations to the project made
it possible to restore the chapel back to its original beauty.
Michael Moore, a member of the St. Patricks Cemetery Committee
who worked with Fox on researching church history, said, People
are proud of their churches and should be proud of their cemeteries.
A rededication of the St. Patrick Cemetery Chapel took
place on Nov. 2. Members of the Cemetery Committee and others active
in the restoration project observed Mass and a blessing of the chapel.
This service marked the cumulation of the past years work on the
restoration of the mortuary chapel.
Fox, her husband, Geoff, and the St. Patricks Cemetery Committee
joined with the cultural resources management firm The Westerly Group
on the restoration. Fox and The Westerly Group selected artisans and
companies with proven experience in bringing the beauty of older structures
back to life.
Helming Brothers Inc., a Jasper, Ind., company that focuses on restoration
work, acted as the contractor in charge of the project. President Joseph
Helming said he appreciates being able to work on a building of
a historic nature and buildings off the beaten path.
Terry Wullenweber of Milan, Ind., a third generation plasterer with
35 years of experience, is using the same type of materials and techniques
used in the original construction to refinish the interior walls. The
plaster will be allowed to cure completely over the winter with final
painting taking place next spring.
Inc. of Jasper, Ind.,
The restoration of the chapels German crafted crucifix
took place under the care of preservationists at the Cleveland Art Institute.
The life-sized crucifix will be re-installed in time for the All Souls
Day rededication of the chapel. Pleased with the work done, Moore said
he has enjoyed watching a thing of beauty grow before my very
The chapel serves as the burial site for two French priests. Father
Dupontavice and Father Joseph Petit each served St. Michaels Church
and lie buried in the floor of the chapel. Father Dupontavice worked
to improve life for those in the Madison area during the mid-1800s.
Camille Fife, president of The Westerly Group, speaks of Father Dupontavice
as known for being sort of an informal doctor to people
and certainly a builder priest. Dupontavice studied medicine
before joining the priesthood and used this knowledge to advise and
aid the sick in his community.
Church histories show that his building projects included the 1853 construction
of Old St. Patricks Church, a school, a home for nuns, as well
as the mortuary chapel in St. Patricks Cemetery. Moore said he
hopes that the restoration of the chapel will spark interest in this
historic priest and that people will see the chapel as a positive
reinforcement of faith in the community. More than 130 years after
his death, Father Dupontavices work is still felt and admired.
In recording one of her visits to Madison, Fox writes, A well-preserved
Cemetery Chapel offers a message of hope. The love and skill put
into this most recent restoration assures Madison that the chapel will
continue to provide years of inspiration and comfort to cemetery visitors.
For more information about the chapel restoration
or rededication ceremony, call Michael Moore at (812) 273-4156.
Back to December 2007