Roofless Church in the Winter

The Roofless Church

An architectural monument designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson. The interfaith church is open to the public. It was commissioned by the late Jane Blaffer Owen, founder of the Robert Lee Blaffer Foundation and a New Harmony resident passionate about preserving nature. Johnson and Owen envisioned a church where the only roof large enough to encompass a world of worshippers was the sky. The church was dedicated in 1960 in association with Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis and maintained by the Robert Lee Blaffer Foundation. Today, in addition to being a tourist attraction, the Roofless Church is a popular site for weddings and other sacred ceremonies.

The church is an open park surrounded by a brick wall. At one end of the park is a dome covered in cedar shingles, shaped in folds that look somewhat like draped cloth. Some interpret the shape as an inverted rosebud, and it is said that the structure casts the shadow of an open rose. The golden rose was the symbol of the utopian community that founded the town. Although a Biblical quotation on the structure mentions the rose, there is no evidence that the architect intended it to resemble, or cast the shadow of, an actual rose. At the top of the dome is an oculus, or round opening. Under the dome is a statue, also commissioned by Owen, by Jacques Lipchitz. At the end of the enclosed park is a balcony that looks out onto open farmland.

The Roofless Church is significant not only for its historic location, however, but for the prominence of its architect. Philip Johnson was one of the most important figures in 20th-century American architecture. As the primary proponent of the International Style, he was responsible for the glass and steel structure of many of the country’s most famous skyscrapers, including the Seagram Building in New York City, which he designed with Mies van der Rohe.

He eventually tired of the International Style’s rigid formalism and started working just in glass. Two of his most famous glass structures are the Glass House, his own residence in New Canaan, Connecticut, and the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. The Roofless Church is a minor work in the architect’s oeuvre, although the walled space does call to mind Johnson’s fondness for the enclosed medieval garden. As for the domed structure itself, there is nothing else like it in his work.


Carol's Garden

Carol’s Garden and the Fountain of Life

The memorial garden was dedicated in 1982 to the memory of Carol Owen Coleman (1944-1979), daughter of Kenneth Dale and Jane Blaffer Owen. The Fountain of Life is located in the center of Carol’s Garden beneath a stunning canopy of Bradford pear trees. The peaceful fountain and its two accompanying benches were made with Indiana limestone by Sculptor David Rogers of Bloomington, Indiana. The designer of this beautiful garden is the late Jane Blaffer Owen.



Cathedral Labyrinth

The Cathedral Labyrinth

Located at the west end of North Street. This outdoor site offers an opportunity to walk and meditate on an ancient single path labyrinth. The pattern of this labyrinth duplicates the original at Chartres Cathedral, built in the 12th century near Paris, France. The Medieval Gothic Cathedrals across Europe often had labyrinths built into their floors. Their geometric pattern related to the unity of each cathedral’s design. The rose in the middle of the New Harmony cathedral labyrinth identifies its Chartres origin. Labyrinth designs have been used by humankind for over 4000 years in many cultural traditions, including Southwest Native Americans. The Cathedral Labyrinth is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., daily.


Chapel of the Little Portion (St. Francis Chapel)

Chapel of the Little Portion (St. Francis Chapel)

Located on the lake behind the New Harmony Inn, the Chapel of the Little Portion was designed by Stephen de Staebler and constructed with stucco and wood in 1989 by the New Harmony Inn and the brothers of Mount Saint Francis. Reverend David Lenz, Franciscan friar from Louisville, Kentucky, explains why the chapel was symbolic for the Franciscans to build. “One day St. Francis of Assisi was praying in the crumbling ruins of the little church of San Damiano and he heard the words ‘Francis, go and repair my church which is falling down. Thinking that he was being directed to rebuild the physical structure of that church, he did so, and went on to rebuild and repair others. One little church he rebuilt was called Portiuncula or little portion. It remained a favorite of his.’” The polished steel cross on the Chapel of the Little Portion in New Harmony was created by Allen Ditson of Arizona for the exterior south wall.


Robert Lee Blaffer Foundation Properties November 24, 2015