After seeing the Dances with Wolves film set and the Crazy Horse Memorial, I decided to take the rest of the day and see the Chapel in the Hills located in Rapid City, South Dakota. I knew a little about the chapel from reading the brochure I had picked up from my hotel. However, it didn’t prepare me for what I would see and experience at this little chapel.
A Stabbur with a grass roof greets you at the start of the journey and is used for a gift shop. There were several things I liked in the gift shop, but they were out of my budget. I finally decided on two packs of note cards. One pack has the chapel drawn on it and the other pack has a rosemaling drawing on it. Rosemaling is a traditional Norwegian art form.
The chapel, or Stavkirke, was built in 1969. It is a replica of the Borgund Church of Norway, which happens to be 850 years old. The intricate carvings framing the doorway caught my interest immediately. The detail in those and the dragon heads gracing the top of the chapel intrigued me. I was later to learn that the carvings around the doorway depict the battle between good and evil.
There is a covered walkway that goes all the way around the church and this is referred to as the ambulatory. An ambulatory is a dry place for people to wait for the church to open and it protected the foundation of the church. Additionally, the men would leave their weapons there while they worshipped. I videoed the walk around it and the inside of the chapel. You can view it here:
Inside the chapel, there are carved Apostle heads and crosses. The pegged construction inside amazed me as much as the carvings outside. The altar is a simple stone structure with a cross, the bible, and candles. They do have services Vesper services every evening at 7:30 pm from the second Sunday in June through the last Sunday in August.
Behind the chapel, there is a prayer/meditation walk. It is a pathway lined on either side with a statue and small prayer posting. I walked the pathway twice, once to take advantage of the walk and have a moment’s peace and again to take the photos.
When I returned to the stone walkway, there was a man, woman, and young boy trying to take pictures of each other in front of the chapel. I took a moment to take the pictures of them all in front of the chapel, the bell tower, and then the heather that was blooming.
The woman chided him for asking me to take the three different pictures, but I assured her I had time. Noticing she was also using a walker and overhearing the comment that she wouldn’t be able to walk the prayer trail due to it being uneven, I offered to sit with her and show her the pictures I had taken of it just a few minutes earlier. She had tears in her eyes when she finished looking through them and my heart was full.
After the encounter, I decided to walk once more around the church. I had only taken a few steps when this little guy decided to grace me with his presence. As I took a step forward, he seemed to tense so I dropped my stuff where I stood and eased to a sitting position.
He watched me a few seconds and went back to eating. I sat and watched the little guy for some time, thinking about life, about my family and friends, about what I should and shouldn’t be doing, about many things and I came to terms with some things.
All in all, it was a great experience and I was thankful I decided to visit the Chapel in the Hills.