The University of Georgia Chapel is located on UGA’s historic North Campus quad. Built in 1832, the Chapel was one of the first Greek Revival buildings in Athens. It was the finest building on campus at the time it was built and was the center of student life in the early days of the university. Seating 433 people, the Chapel now serves as a venue for various events such as campus lectures with guest speakers and weddings.
the early days of the university the Chapel was a center of campus activities.
A daily mandatory religious service took place there in addition to assemblies
and commencements. If you look from the front of the chapel to the quad, you
will see a sundial. This sundial marks the site of the famous Toombs Oak.
Robert Toombs, a famous senator and Confederate general, was expelled from the
university in 1825. As legend has it, he reappeared at commencement and spoke
so powerfully under the oak tree that the audience in the chapel left to hear
him. While this story is quite romantic, it is not true – but still makes for a
Chapel became such a landmark of the campus and surrounding community that the
city’s boundaries were measured from a midpoint at the base of the chapel
steps, and extended in a 360-degree radius several miles away3. During
the Civil War, the Chapel served as an army hospital and later as a prison for
431 Northern soldiers taken nearby in 18644. After the war the
university was presented with one of the world’s largest framed oil paintings, Interior of St. Peter’s Rome by George
Cooke. The painting was presented to the university by Daniel Pratt in 1867.
famous Chapel Bell was originally located on the chapel roof but in 1913 the
tower was found to be rotten and was removed5. The bell was
subsequently placed at the top of a wooden tower at the back of the Chapel,
where it remains today.
bell was initially used to call students to chapel as well as to signal class
changes, but it had other uses as well. Football was originally played on Herty
Field next to the Chapel, and in the 1890s it was the freshmen’s duty to ring
the bell after each victory6. During World War II the bell was used
for a period as an air raid siren. Now the Chapel Bell is rung in celebration
of football wins as well as personal accomplishments such as making an A on a
test or graduating. A marker about the bell can be found in front of the bell tower
at the back of the Chapel.
1. The University of Georgia, Chapel History & Restoration, (The University of Georgia).
2. Reed, Thomas Walter, History of the University of Georgia, (The University of Georgia, 1949), 128.
3. Ayers, et. al, University of Georgia Physical Master Plan, (The University of Georgia, 1998), 12.
4. Thomas, Frances Taliaferro, Athens, (New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2004).
5. UGA, Chapel History.
6. Marinova, Polina, Lasting Legacies: Chapel Bell Rings of History, (The Red & Black, 2009).