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This image of Saint Catherine of Sienna’s Chapel at Camp Saint Malo in Colorado – otherwise known as the “Chapel on the Rock” – was captured on a crystalline–cold December morning. The sun had just risen, and the clouds moved swiftly in the high mountain air following an overnight snowfall. For this photo I used a wide angle lens to better show its sublime setting just east of Rocky Mountain National Park. Over the years, thousands of visitors (including Pope John Paul II, in 1993) have come to enjoy its simplicity and beauty.
To have contemplated such a magnificent scene on that morning, in its ethereal stillness and light, was like touching the very face of God. Not long after I made this photograph, the clouds you see lowered and thickened, transforming the rarified air into an icy fog. It reminded me once again how fleeting – and precious – moments like these really are.
Saint Catherine of Siena Chapel
Saint Malo Retreat Center
The photo was made using a Canon EOS-1V body, EF 24mm f/1.4L lens, and Velvia 100 film.
The founder of Camp St. Malo, Monsignor Joseph Bosetti, had for years entertained an idea that one day he would build a chapel on this site. In 1916 he and two friends observed a falling meteor during the night and in his search for the remnants the next morning, he came across a large rock. The beauty of the land inspired the priest and he remembered Jesus’ words to Peter: “Upon this rock, I will build my Church.” (Matt 16:18).
Vowing one day to build a chapel here, Msgr. Bosetti prayed for nearly 20 years to acquire the funds. During this time, he found himself in a constant battle with the Colorado Highway department which had plans to dynamite the enormous piece of granite to both widen and straighten the curve in the road.
Eventually, Msgr. Bosetti won the battle and years later, when the chapel became a reality, it was reported that a group of engineers who laid out the road came to the dedication and thanked him for his perseverance.
The chapel was designed by noted Denver architect Jacques Benedict. The contractors were the Coulihan Brothers and Charlie Miller of the nearby town of Allenspark, who had native stone hauled in by mule carts from the surrounding area to use as building material.
The land on which Camp St. Malo is built was given to the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Malo who purchased the 160 acres from the William McPhee estate in 1935.
The Malos donated the funds for the building of the chapel and paid for its maintenance for decades. The chapel was dedicated by Archbishop Urban Vehr in 1936 to the honor of Saint Catherine of Siena and in the memory of Mrs. Malo’s mother, Catherine Smith Mullen.
In 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the chapel during his trip to Denver for the World Youth Day and bestowed his personal blessing on the chapel.
Over the years, thousand of visitors have stopped at the chapel to enjoy its simplicity and beauty as it is framed against majestic Mt. Meeker. In 1999, Boulder County designated the chapel as a historic site. The Chapel on the Rock is truly a Colorado landmark.