The Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board has granted its approval for the consideration of Mater Dei Chapel at Mount St. Joseph University to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Mount St. Joseph News

CINCINNATI, Oh. - This marks a significant step toward recognizing the historical and cultural significance of Mater Dei Chapel, a cherished landmark on the Mount’s campus.

The Mater Dei Chapel, known for its stunning artwork and rich history, has served as a focal point for spiritual and community gatherings since its completion in 1962. The National Register of Historic Places consideration is a testament to the chapel's enduring importance and contribution to the cultural heritage of the region.

The National Register of Historic Places, overseen by the Department of Interior and National Park Service, plays a crucial role in identifying and preserving sites that hold exceptional historical value. The approval from the State Board kicks off a 45 day period where the proposal is considered by the Department of the Interior & National Park Service. If approved, the Mount’s proposal will be housed in the Library of Congress. Inclusion on the national registry ensures the preservation and protection of these sites for future generations.

"We are thrilled to receive the Ohio State Advisory Board's approval for the Mater Dei Chapel's consideration on the National Register of Historic Places. This acknowledgment reflects the enduring impact of the chapel on our community,” said Sister Karen Elliott, C.PP.S, Chief Mission & Belonging Officer at the Mount.

The Mater Dei, which means Mother of God, Chapel is a two-story, mid-century modern style collegiate chapel located on Mount St. Joseph University’s campus.The interior of the Chapel is adorned with Mid-Century liturgical works of art that have a high degree of artistic value. 


The overall interior design of Mater Dei Chapel and associated works of art were fabricated under the direction of the University’s art department chair and Sister of Charity, Sister Augusta Zimmer, SC. The original Chapel design was proposed by the campus architect, L.P. Cotter in 1958.

Sr. Augusta along with three Mount St. Joseph University students, Margaret Rolfes Brungs ’60, Judith Dettenwanger Ebbeler ’61, and Marlene Hoffman ’61,  are responsible for the interior design, furnishings, and works of art within Mater Dei Chapel. Sister Augusta was assisted by Sister Ann Austin Mooney, SC and Sister Loretta Ann McCarty, SC who also contributed liturgical art to the newly constructed Chapel.

”The Mater Dei Chapel is unique to the United States in many ways, one being that no other  Catholic college or university in the country was designed and created by their faculty and undergraduate students. Also in the 1960s, there had been no chapels created by women. Our chapel was the first,” added Sr. Karen. 

Sr. Augusta tasked her senior art students with designing pieces of liturgical art for the new chapel as part of their Senior Thesis project. Three out of eight students were commissioned to complete their work after graduation. The majority of the furnishings and works of art were designed and created by the three talented women mentioned above under the supervision of Sr. Augusta. These works of art remain in excellent condition and have a high level of historic integrity.


Mater Dei Chapel is also significant at the local level as the works of art within the Chapel are representative of the first female designed collegiate chapel prior to the modern liturgical movement. They represent a shift in the design profession from a male dominated environment to females taking a leadership role within the design community. The works of art, produced by Sisters of Charity and three female students, signify a social transformation not only in the design community, but within the Catholic Church and previously defined gender roles.

“The Chapel is a living testimony that there is no limit on what someone can achieve if they really put their mind to it and believe. The Sisters believed they could do it and they believed in the students at the Mount. This provides evidence that we believe in the gifts and talents of our students, as we do today,  as they did then.”

Mount St. Joseph University plans to actively collaborate with relevant authorities to complete the necessary documentation for Mater Dei Chapel's  National Register of Historic Places submission. The Mount is committed to ensuring the continued preservation and appreciation of this iconic landmark.

You can help preserve this national treasure, and join us in restoring Mater Dei Chapel for future generations at

Take a virtual tour of the Mater Dei Chapel at Mount St. Joseph University.


About the Mount

As a Catholic institution rooted in the values of the Sisters of Charity, Mount St. Joseph University excels at serving the common good. Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students at the Mount are inspired to think beyond the classroom and redraw the bounds of what’s possible for their futures. This is accomplished through individualized educational experiences, a safe, secure campus environment, and an all-in commitment from faculty and staff to inspire students to reach their highest potential. The Mount fosters life-long learners who serve, care, and contribute to the world beyond their front doors.