Nearly 200 couples from as far away as California will be renewing their wedding vows at Heinz Chapel’s 75th anniversary celebration on Saturday.
Pat Gibbons is the director of Heinz Chapel, located on the University of Pittsburgh campus. She said the response to this weekend’s festivities has far exceeded her expectations. Including 196 married couples, she is anticipating around 560 guests for the vow-renewal ceremony.
“We had a daughter whose parents eloped; they couldn’t afford a wedding,” Gibbons said. “She is surprising them with this renewal of vows and her sister and her brother and their families are all coming.”
The Honorable Max Baer, Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a Pitt alumnus will preside over the group renewal of vows.
While the vow renewal ceremony is at capacity, the evening’s concert with resident chamber ensemble OvreArts Sinfonia and Chamber Singers is open to the public, though an RSVP is appreciated.
“The original director of the Heinz Chapel Choir wrote anthems about our stained glass windows, and two of those have been modified and updated and will be performed,” Gibbons said.
The iconic stained glass windows, which are some of the tallest in the world at 22 meters high, were designed by world-renowned glass artist Charles Connick.
“(Connick) was originally from this area of Pennsylvania, apprenticed with a stained-glass studio here in Pittsburgh, the Rudy Brothers, and then went on to Boston where he founded a studio (which) was a working entity until about 1987,” Gibbons said.
Upon his death in 1945, The New York Times called Connick “the world’s greatest artisan on stained windows.”
Heinz Chapel was a gift from two generations of the Heinz family. Henry John Heinz wanted to honor his mother, Anna Margaritta Heinz, with a building at the university. When he died in 1919, he left a bequest for such a project in his will.
“His three children added to that bequest and decided to build a chapel because their father had been active in the International Sunday School movement all his life, so it was a reasonable memorial both to he and the mother,” Gibbons said.
Construction of Heinz Chapel began in 1933 and was completed in 1938.
Gibbons said the University is fortunate that Heinz Chapel was built when it was at a price tag of just $1 million. She said she can’t imagine the school investing in a similar building today.
“It’s the soul of the University, and it’s just a beautiful place,” Gibbons said. “We have a sign-in book and you would be amazed at the comments and the people from around the world who stop into the building.”