RAMSA’s new art museum at Notre Dame has a hidden chapel with stained glass by Mimmo Paladino

More Than Meets the Eye

RAMSA’s new art museum at Notre Dame has a hidden chapel with stained glass by Mimmo Paladino

The Raclin Murphy Museum of Art opened to the public last December. (Francis Dzikowski/OTTO/Courtesy RAMSA)

In South Bend, Indiana, the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art by Robert A.M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) opened its doors in December for the University of Notre Dame. The neoclassical art museum features numerous site-specific artworks including custom-made stained glass windows by Italian sculptor and painter Mimmo Paladino.

The new 70,000-square-foot building is sited in the Charles B. Hayes Family Sculpture Park, a 9-acre space designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh with a famous sculpture by Richard Hunt. The new RAMSA building meshes within the landscape with a brick, cast stone, and Indiana limestone exterior facade. The brick’s coloring was selected to match other buff-color brick found on neighboring buildings.

interior atrium with skylight
Galleries coalesce around a multi-level atrium that rises to a central skylight. (Francis Dzikowski/OTTO/Courtesy RAMSA)

The Raclin Museum of Art was founded in 1875. The new RAMSA building will help the historic institution accommodate its over 31,000 art works. To inaugurate the new building, the Raclin commissioned site-specific pieces by Jenny Holzer, Maya Lin, and other contemporary artists.

A 36-foot-long steel sculpture by Jaume Plensa, entitled Endless, is just outside the museum entrance. The atrium contains a circular terrazzo and bronze floor installation by Kiki Smith, Sea of Stars, which features 39 hand-drawn and cast stars inspired by Medieval, Renaissance, and Byzantine depictions of the Madonna, and the cosmos more broadly.

Cumulatively, the building has 23 historically themed galleries that coalesce around a multi-level atrium that rises to a central skylight. The newly opened Raclin Murphy building was made for exhibition and educational spaces, but future plans will add more galleries and teaching spaces to the campus, as well as a works-on-paper study center, administrative and curatorial offices, and open collections storage, officials said.

gallery space with art on wall and in room
The building has multiple site specific installations. (Francis Dzikowski/OTTO/Courtesy RAMSA)

Looking ahead, the new building will host acquisitions from Magdalena Abakanowicz, Zhang Huan, Dietrich Klinge, Julie Mehretu, David Ocelotl Garcia, Jamie Okuma, Yinka Shonibare, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Dana Warrington, Jason Wesaw and other artists.

Part of the new museum’s novelty however may evade the casual observer. The museum has its very own chapel tucked between the art galleries on the second floor. Custom-made stained glass windows by Mimmo Paladino adorn the chapel which was designed for meditation, small gatherings, and displaying religious works.

interior view of the chapel in RAMSA’s new art museum at Notre Dame
The museum chapel has frescoes and stained glass windows by Mimmo Paladino. (Francis Dzikowski/OTTO/Courtesy RAMSA)

Museum officials note that Paladino’s stained-glass window, incised wall frescoes, and mosaic artwork on the ceiling are the result of extensive research of the University of Notre Dame, the Holy Cross order, Marian iconography and the region’s natural environment.

“Since its founding, Notre Dame has valued the vital role the visual arts play as an expression of human creativity, religious experience and insight into the human condition,” said University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. “By bringing the collections currently in the Snite Museum of Art to new life in the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, we will be able to share these treasures in all their richness with our University community, our neighbors in the region and the wider world.”