This post’s photo destination adventure take us to Sedona where two things usually come to mind: stunning red rocks and pink jeep tours. Sedona has more to offer than red rocks: visitors will also find one of National Geographic’s “38 Religious Places with Awe-Inspiring Architecture” called Chapel of the Holy Cross Church.
At first glance, visitors will quickly discover why Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of Sedona’s top tourist destinations. It is built into a 1000 foot rock wall between two buttes and reaches 250 feet tall. Inside the Chapel features an amazing 90 foot steel cross that functions both as a support structure and also a religious symbol.
Where is Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross?
The Chapel is located off Highway 179 on Chapel Road south of downtown Sedona and is very easy to find.
Chapel of the Holy Cross History
Although I initially visited the Chapel to photograph it, I quickly became engrossed in the Chapels’ history and thought I would share a bit of it here.
A local Sedona rancher and sculptor, Marquerite Brunwig Staude, came up with the idea for the Chapel’s design after a 1932 visit to the new Empire State Building in New York. Once she had a design in mind, Marquerite spent years on a worldwide search for the perfect location on which to build her chapel.
Originally, Marquerite attempted to build her chapel in Budapest with Lloyd Wright, the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, but had to abort the build due to the beginning of World War II. It was not until many years later that she finally decided to build the Chapel in Sedona.
For additional history of the Chapel be sure to visit: About the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross was built in 1956 on top of two buttes nestled between the surrounding red rocks, cactus, and cottonwood trees in an awe inspiring setting that every visitor to Sedona must see.
Best Ways to Visit Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross
Drive- For those who chose to drive to the Chapel, be sure to arrive very early on a weekday if at all possible since parking is limited. Park in the first available spot you can find. Once parked you have two options; a) choose to hike up a steep hill to the Chapel entrance or b) take advantage of the free golf cart rides to the top of the hill.
Handicapped Visitors– Proceed to the top of the hill where all parking is for handicapped stickers only as shown in the photo below.
RVs and longer vehicles- I believe the lots at the bottom can accommodate vans and shorter class C RVs. However, I would not attempt to visit the Chapel if towing a travel trailer or in any large RV as places to turn around are limited and tight. Please check with the Chapel to verify if anything has changed.
Take a tour-The Chapel is a popular stop on several of Sedona’s tours and participating in a tour would eliminate the hassle of finding a place to park. However, for those interesting in photographing the Chapel, this may not be the best option.
If you are hoping to capture photos of the Chapel’s interior or avoid large crowds you need to visit the Chapel as soon as it opens or shortly thereafter. Therefore inquire from any tour company as to what time they plan to visit the Chapel. Even if you take a tour I do suggest returning in the early evening to photograph the Chapel’s exterior. Also, parking should not be as difficult later in the afternoon.
Hike– For hikers, there are a couple of different trails that will take you to the Chapel. The Chapel Trail is the easier of the two options as the other requires a bit of rock scrambling if I remember correctly. Here is a brief overview of the Chapel Trail.
How to Photograph The Chapel of the Holy Cross
Photographing this chapel is very different than photographing any other church I have visited due to the grounds being vertical buttes. Obviously, these vertical buttes do not afford photographers any ability to walk around the chapel and photograph its different sides. In fact to photograph the front of the Chapel’s exterior, one must park well below the actual Chapel’s entrance in the lot pictured below.
Fortunately, the lot (more like a pullover) provides access to some of the best spots from which to photograph the Chapel’s amazing exterior as seen in the images below.
Photos from the Chapel’s Lower Parking Area:
Entrance to the Chapel of the Holy Cross
As previously mentioned, the actual entrance to the Chapel is located at the top of a steep hill. Once you arrive at the top parking lot (handicapped only) there is a paved curved ramp that has a bit of an incline one must walk before reaching the actual Chapel door. Although not nearly as steep as the hill from the parking lot, for some this ramp can still be a bit of a struggle, especially in hot weather so take it easy.
Ramp to the Chapel Entrance
Chapel of the Holy Cross Interior
The interior of the Chapel is small with a few rows of pews, many stands of red candles at the front of the Chapel, and of course the amazing cross and views as far as the eye can see from the Chapel’s enormous glass windows.
Tips for Photographing the Chapel
The Chapel’s Interior
The Chapel’s Exterior
Personal Note: When I first began photographing the Chapel, I felt a vertical orientation was the right choice to accentuate the tall buttes and Chapel building. However, as I spent time evaluating the landscape, I realized that I also needed to also photograph the Chapel in a horizontal orientation in order to incorporate the beautiful surrounding trees, red rocks and cactus in the composition. Take time to photograph the Chapel in both orientations as they both make great images.
Questions about Visiting Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross
Where is Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross?
The Chapel if located just southeast of downtown Sedona on Chapel Road the comes directly off Highway 17.
What does it cost to see the Chapel?
The Chapel is free to visit but tips for drivers of the golf carts are welcomed as are donations inside the Chapel.
Does the Chapel have Sunday Mass?
No, but they do have a Monday evening 5 p.m. prayer service open to all.
Where do I park at when visiting Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross?
See above for a detailed answer.
Does the Sedona Chapel of the Holy Cross have a gift shop?
Yes, it is in the Chapel’s basement and it is well worth a visit.
What hours is the Sedona Chapel of the Holy Cross open?
The Chapel is open every day 9-5 and only closed on a few holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you found this post on the Chapel of the Holy Cross interesting, you may also enjoy reading about another historic Arizona church called San Xavier Mission in Tucson.
Best Time of Year to Visit Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross ?
The Chapel is a great place to visit any time of year, however, temperatures will be milder in fall and spring. Summers are hot in Sedona and would be my least favorite time of year to visit.
How Long Should I Spend at the Chapel?
For those only interested in seeing the Chapel both from the ground and up to the entrance, a hour is plenty of time. For those interested in capturing this amazing building in a photograph, I would plan to at least two hours.
Other Historic Arizona Churches
If you have found this article interesting, you may wish to check out my post on the beautiful San Xavier Mission in Tucson. Of note for photographers, the best time to photograph this church is in the late fall to winter months.
Closing Thoughts on Visiting Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona
Sedona is so full of amazing sights that it may be easy to skip visiting and photographing the Chapel of the Holy Cross. Please so not skip this Chapel as this is a place you don’t want to miss. In fact, I have traveled extensively in the United States and have never seen anything like this Chapel.
Other Arizona Photo Destinations