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Basilica named most beautiful college cathedral

Nicole McAlee | Thursday, January 31, 2013

The University’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart, arguably one of the most beautiful buildings on campus, received official recognition when it topped BestCollegeReviews.org’s “30 Most Beautiful College Cathedrals” list.

Fr. Peter Rocca, rector of the Basilica, said he was thrilled to hear the Basilica had received the highest honor.

“To be perfectly honest, I was surprised that the Basilica was ranked No. 1,” he said. “There was a lot of stiff competition among those [listed.]”

The Princeton University Chapel, the West Point Cadet Chapel and Yale University’s Battell Chapel were among the 30 churches also to make the list. The list honored 21 churches at American universities and nine churches at European universities.

JD Arney, editor of BestCollegeReviews.org, said he chooses churches for the list based on one simple criterion: He listed the churches he found most beautiful.

“Ultimately, a list like this is very subjective. … I compiled a large list of possible churches and then narrowed it down with the help of a colleague,” he said. “The criteria [were] really just to pick the churches I found the most aesthetically pleasing.

“Many beautiful churches didn’t make the list, I probably could have made an honorable mention list with another 50,” Arney said.

Arney said that he visited Notre Dame as a child, and acknowledged the visit might have swayed his decision to put the Basilica at the top of the list.

“I grew up in southern Ohio, and have family in Indiana. I attended a Notre Dame football game when I was a kid. … I’m not sure if it factored into the decision, but it probably did, as it left quite an impression on me,” Arney said.

Arney said that the Basilica was a natural choice for the most beautiful college church in the world.

“[The] Basilica of the Sacred Heart is one of the few churches on the list that is iconic as a national landmark, and from the start I knew it would be my top selection. It’s also one of the few churches on the list, I think, that is the symbol of the entire university,” Arney said. “It was an easy choice as our most beautiful church, and while I’ve gotten a great deal of feedback on the list, I haven’t had anyone complain about Notre Dame’s selection as No. 1 overall.”

Arney said the list was compiled independently of any influence from the respective universities.

“It just came as a complete surprise to me,” Rocca said.