The Detours series celebrates lesser-known locales worth visiting across the state.
The late architect Philip Johnson was a lifelong atheist, yet he’s responsible for some of the world’s most beautiful religious spaces. Houston’s historic Montrose neighborhood is graced with two of them: the Rothko Chapel, which he helped design, and, just a six-minute walk away, the lesser-known Chapel of St. Basil. Built in 1997, the gold-domed structure anchors the north end of the University of St. Thomas campus. (Johnson, who was closely associated with the Catholic school throughout his life, designed its distinctive brick-and-steel quadrangle in the fifties.) Visitors enter through what appears to be a vertical rip in the white stucco facade. Inside is a contemplative, high-ceilinged space illuminated from above by a massive skylight; during the day, a window shaped like an asymmetrical cross seems to glow. With seating for 225 people, the chapel hosts Mass every day, but its doors are open to everyone, regardless of their religion. A few minutes in its tranquility offers a break from city life.
An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in the November 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Under the Dome.” Subscribe today.