Shrine of the South: Lee Chapel in Lexington, VA

With a bold spire, flared tower, and latticed windows, Lee Chapel in Lexington, VA certainly stands out against the classical design of the rest of the campus of Washington and Lee University. When its construction began in 1867, Robert E. Lee probably had no knowledge that in the year 2013, Lee Chapel would still be in use not only as a place of worship, but also as a museum and a final resting place for Lee and his family.

After his Civil War surrender at Appomattox in 1865, Robert E. Lee was offered the position of president of Washington College, which he accepted and fulfilled until his death five years later. “In his first ‘Report of the President’ dated June 1866, Lee requested that the Washington College board of trustees appropriate funds to build a larger chapel…The chapel, which Lee described as ‘a pleasing as well as useful addition to the College buildings,’ was dedicated on the morning of June 14, 1868” (Encyclopedia Virginia).

Fun, Fast Facts:

–          Lee attended morning services at the chapel every day and then would walk downstairs to his basement office.

–          Jubal A. Early, another former Confederate leader, made a speech at the chapel in 1872. This speech is credited as a “landmark event in the creation of the so-called Lost Cause view of the war” (Encyclopedia Virginia).

–          Washington College was renamed Washington and Lee University after Lee’s death in 1870.  (Shenandoah at War).

–          Lee’s wife Mary is the one who made the decision to bury Lee at the chapel, where he was “interred in a vault in the chapel basement.”

If you are planning to visit the campus of Washington and Lee University and/or Lee Chapel, consider the following BBHSV members to suit all of your lodging needs: Brierley Hill, Fox Hill Bed and Breakfast, and A B&B at Llewellyn Lodge.

Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia