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St. Anne Shell Chapel

The walls of Saint Anne Shell Chapel are lined with beautiful shells.

When you think of a church or a chapel, you might picture a big building with lots of space. But at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, the Sisters of Providence have a tiny little chapel that’s probably even smaller than your bedroom!

This chapel is called the St. Anne Shell Chapel. It’s called the Shell Chapel because the walls inside the chapel are completely covered in beautiful shells. There are also two stained glass windows that include designs of shells and coral.

Of course, there’s a story behind all of this. In November 1843, Mother Theodore and Sister Mary Cecilia Bailly were on their way back from France, where they had been asking for money to help run the Congregation. They were traveling on a ship called the Nashville across the Atlantic Ocean, and the journey was wrought with extreme storms and giant waves. The passengers and crew were all terrified that the ship would sink!

In their fear the sisters prayed, asking Mary (the mother of Jesus) and St. Anne to protect them. When they arrived back home in Indiana safely, Mother Theodore directed that a chapel be built to honor St. Anne. The first chapel that they built was a small log structure, but in 1875 they built a more permanent stone structure that still stands today.

Nearly all of the shells that decorate the walls and altar of the chapel were collected by sisters from the local Wabash River. The shell mosaics were designed by Sister Mary Joseph Le Fer de la Motte, who spent many days placing all of the shells by hand.

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Christina Blust

Christina worked as the digital media and website manager for Sisters of Providence for 9 years and now serves as the website's designer and consultant through her company, Blustery Day Design. She's a musician, reader, writer and generally curious person.

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  1. […] Lourdes Grotto (the one with the altar, as apparently there are two?).  At first I came across the St Anne Shell Chapel, which is a semi-hidden beauty.  The walls are lined with shells.  It’s pretty. […]

  2. […] River.The chapel was built in 1875 and was the second structure on the grounds to honor St. Anne, according to the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods website. During a harrowing sea voyage from France to the U.S. in 1843, Mother Theodore Guerin, founder of […]

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