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Sunday, August 7, 2016

The "A Return To Columbus Chapel" Story

The Columbus Chapel in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in Columbus Chapel with a family of four listening to our guide tell us the history of the chapel. A few months ago we made a visit to The Boal Mansion in Boalsburg with friends Jerry and Just Sue who live in nearby State College, PA.  At the time the mansion and nearby chapel were closed, but I did manage to take a few photos and post a story about the place.  
The entrance door which is hand-carved.
After reading online about the Columbus Chapel, I just knew I had to return and make a visit to see this historic place which is said to contain the most significant collection of Christopher Columbus artifacts in North America.  I'm sure you remember Christopher Columbus who under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean to establish permanent settlements on the island of Hispaniola which initiated the European colonization of the New World, specifically the Americas and the Caribbean. It was back in the early 1800s that David Boal built a log home in the area where I am now standing.  His son George was responsible for having the state's Farmer's School, now Penn State University, located to nearby State College in 1855.  
Looking toward the altar in the chapel.
It was George's grandson Theodore who traveled to Paris to study and while there fell in love and married a French aristocrat who happened to be related to Christopher Columbus.  Eventually they inherited Christopher's castle in Asturias, Spain.  Theodore loved the chapel on the site so much he wanted to move it back to Boalsburg where he and his wife now lived.  He knew the Spanish government wouldn't allow that, so he built a chapel exactly like the one in Spain and moved all the belongings back to Boalsburg.  So that, dear friends, is why I am standing in Columbus Chapel which is about 100 yards from the Boal Mansion.  
The aged photo of Christopher Columbus' castle in Spain.
The smell is musty and the light is dim, but the atmosphere is unbeliev- able.  No flash photo- graphs are allowed in the chapel.  I am actually standing in front of the Admiral's desk that Columbus used during his four journeys to the New World.  In the corner on the opposite of the small chapel are three confessionals with beautifully carved wooden doors that stand in front of stack after stack of family archives tied with twine that date from 1453 to 1908.  
Hand-made wooden doors that
stand in front of the confessionals.
All these records have been place on microfilm by Penn State University and will eventually be digitized for all to view.  Hanging on the wall is a sepia-toned picture of Christopher's castle in Asturias, Spain.  In the front of the chapel, on either side of the altar, are two chairs which were at one time occupied by priests and bishops of the Catholic Church.  As you enter the only door in the chapel and look up and to the left you will see the crest that was Christopher Columbus' Coat-Of-Arms. Perhaps one of the most inspiring items in the chapel was a silver Reliquary which bore two pieces of the True Cross.  In other words there was a silver containter which held holy relics which happened to be two pieces of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.  I talked with the director of the Mansion and Chapel about the security needed to protect the items on display and he assured me that there are many levels of security that have been placed around both the chapel and mansion.  
Behind the doors are stack after stack
of family records.
This chapel is truly a marvelous collection of historical artifacts in the middle of Harris Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania.  I am honored to have had the chance to see and touch items from another era and country that shaped our nation.  Now, for the final bit of info ... on the front door is a metal object that is supposed to bring you wisdom and success if you touch it.  Our guide said that it had been touched too many times and they were trying to discourage touching it.  I pleaded with her that I just had to touch it in order to write a great post about the Columbus Chapel ... and she turned her head as I rubbed my hand over it!  If you want an inspiring experience, make a trip to the Boal Mansion and Columbus Chapel in Boalsburg, PA and take the tour of the mansion and make sure you don't miss viewing the interior of the Columbus Chapel. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - please remember that the photographs were taken in low light without any flash.  Click on photos to enlarge them.

Closeup of the stacks of records.
The Columbus Coat-Of-Arms.
The Admiral's Desk that belonged to Christopher Columbus and was taken with him on his voyages to the New World.
This is the front door that has a cross under a crown that I touched in order to maintain my wisdom and success.

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