Chapel of the Prodigal

The Chapel Building

Exterior of Montreat College's Chapel of the ProdigalThe Chapel of the Prodigal and the McGowan Center for Christian Studies is the embodiment of Montreat College’s mission. In mountain Gothic style the building houses both a chapel and educational facilities. The architect, Richard A. Henley of Charlotte, NC, has nestled the building into the gently sloping terrain and into the valley itself. The result blends into the college campus and enhances the greater Montreat community. Heavy timbers, over two hundred years old, are used for the roof trusses. The chapel is completed by an Allen Renaissance Organ and a splendid carillon which produces the sounds of sixty-one bells. On the chapel level is a Bride’s Room and a Groom’s Room. The Ruth Bell Graham Prayer Room on the chapel balcony level features the beautiful calligraphy “Come Unto Me,” a verse chosen by Mrs. Graham. The McGowan Center of Christian Studies on the ground floor provides a home for the college’s Christian Ministries Division and a place for teaching, study and reflection on God’s Word.

The Return of the Prodigal

The interior of the Chapel of the Prodigal was designed as a complementary setting and focus for the large fresco, the Return of the Prodigal, creating an intimate, yet uplifting worship space. Montreat’s fresco is sixteen feet wide by seventeen and one-half feet tall and portrays the parable found in Luke Chapter 15. After squandering the inheritance he demanded from his father, the prodigal son returns home from a far country seeking forgiveness and acceptance. The father receives him with love and joy, reestablishing his place in the family. This parable of the unconditional love of God is considered by many to be the greatest story Jesus told. Montreat’s artistic interpretation is the only known true fresco by a master artist on the theme of the parable of the Prodigal Son. The Return of the Prodigal is Long’s first fresco on a wall built to his specifications.

Fresco: Return of the Prodigal, Interior of Chapel of the Prodigal in Montreat CollegeThe Artist, Ben Long

True fresco is a complicated and tedious technique. Powdered pigments suspended in pure water are applied to wet lime plaster. The pigments are absorbed into the plaster that cures to a rock hard crystalline surface becoming more luminous over time. The art of fresco was known in many ancient cultures, yet it was during the Italian Renaissance that true fresco achieved its greatest glory. Although never fully abandoned, this great art form is recovering in our time with renewed vigor. Ben Long is one of only a few master fresco artists working today. A North Carolinian, he began his art career  with an apprenticeship under Maestro Pietro Annigoni in Florence, Italy. He has since achieved international fame as a master of both true fresco, drawing and oil painting. His excellence in the field of fresco painting has resulted in numerous commissions worldwide including Italy, France and seven sites in North Carolina.

Watch the Fresco Process