On September 20, 1970, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was dedicated by Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle on the golden jubilee of his priesthood. Since then, the chapel has provided a majestic place of repose for the Holy Eucharist—the True Presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica.
Depicting the life and death of Christ and the sacraments of confirmation and baptism through a mosaic comprised of 100 shades of variegated gold, it creates an atmosphere of contemplation and reverence. It is no wonder that upon visiting the Basilica, Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis each began with silent prayer in this chapel.
The Art of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel
From the moment the visitor steps into the chapel, their attention is directed to the Blessed Sacrament. An ethereal cascading baldachin depicts manna falling from heaven above the bronze tabernacle, which houses the Blessed Sacrament. While the dome above centers on the scene of the crucifixion, other surrounding figures represent a universal offertory procession. The pendentives depict the Lord’s Supper, the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, baptism on Holy Saturday, and confirmation.
The chapel also contains a Möller organ that formerly resided in the Crypt Church. With two manuals and 188 pipes, it provides music for smaller liturgies and special occasions with the choir.
The Significance of the Blessed Sacrament
The Blessed Sacrament is a mysterious yet beautiful element of the faith, vital in providing spiritual nourishment to the members of the Church. As Pope Benedict XVI said in his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis:
The Eucharist is a “mystery of faith” par excellence: “the sum and summary of our faith.” The Church’s faith is essentially a eucharistic faith, and it is especially nourished at the table of the Eucharist. Faith and the sacraments are two complementary aspects of ecclesial life. Awakened by the preaching of God’s word, faith is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: “faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith.” For this reason, the Sacrament of the Altar is always at the heart of the Church’s life: “thanks to the Eucharist, the Church is reborn ever anew!”
Because it is the place of repose for the Blessed Sacrament, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel holds a special place in the heart of Mary’s Shrine.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel was a gift from the clergy and bishops of the United States, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Menke, and other members of the laity. You can view the Blessed Sacrament Chapel on the Interactive Map of the Basilica.