June 03, 2020 2 min read

Founded as the Episcopal Theological School in 1867, the school was renamed the Episcopal Divinity School in 1974 when it merged with the Philadelphia Divinity School, founded in 1857. In 2018, the school merged with the Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and we purchased silver from the school chapel, St. John's Memorial Chapel. 

St. John's Memorial Chapel in 2018.

St. John's Memorial Chapel in 2018.

Located on Brattle Street in historic Cambridge, MA, the former campus is a historic landmark located next to the Longfellow house.  Consecrated on November 16, 1869, the chapel was designed by the architectural firm of Ware and Van Brunt who would also create the "Quadrangle" of residences, classrooms, and library a few years later. (See image at the top.) William Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt were leading architects of their era, also responsible for Harvard's Memorial Hall nearby. The school had a close relationship with Harvard's Divinity School, allowing for cross-registration of classes.

Founded due to the need for a New England based seminary in the Episcopal Church, the school was always a leader of inclusiveness. It was the first seminary to accept African-Americans. It was one of the first to educate women to be deacons in the church and later to ordain women into the ministry.

Students and alumni were active in the civil rights movement. In 1965, seminarian Jonathan Daniels died protecting a young African-American woman from a racist attack in Hayneville, Alabama. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called Daniel's selflessness, "one of the most heroic Christian deeds of which I have heard...," and the Episcopal Church designated him a martyr.

The school had the first openly gay and lesbian theology professors in the 1970s and was the first with an openly lesbian dean. The first gay marriages in the Episcopal Church were performed in St. John's Memorial Chapel in 1995.

Library of Congess historic image of St. John's Chapel from the mid-1960's.

Library of Congress image of St. John's Chapel from the mid-1960s.

The chapel silver includes masterpieces of the American Arts & Crafts movement, historical pieces from both St. John's Chapel and St. Andrews Chapel of Philadelphia (the chapel of the Philadelphia Divinity School) as well as other more utilitarian ecclesiastical pieces.

To see these pieces, click here.



History and Guide: St. John's Memorial Chapel, Cambridge, Mass. (Cambridge: Episcopal Divinity School, nd)

James Arthur Muller, The Episcopal Theological School: 1867-1943, (Cambridge: Episcopal Theological School, 1943)

Wikipedia, "Episcopal Divinity School," last accessed 8/19/2018.