By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 11, 2021 at 5:02 PM

Whenever anyone asks about the oldest building in Milwaukee, it’s obvious – with a caveat. The winner by far is the St. Joan of Arc Chapel on the Marquette University, built in the 15th century. The caveat is that it was moved to the United States in 1927 and to Milwaukee about 40 years later.

Today, Marquette President Michael R. Lovell announced that the university has received a gift of $1 million to help preserve the chapel.

The donation was made by the Slaggie Family Foundation after the school conducted an investigation and report on the chapel in advance of launching a $3 million restoration of the 600-year-old building.

Created under the leadership of Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Lora Strigens, the report suggests boosting accessibility for students and visitors via a series of paths and steps on the grounds of the chapel and leading to the adjacent Marian Grotto.

This lovely little building with the steep-pitched roofs and pointed spire is by far the oldest structure in Milwaukee. It was built in the 15th century as Chapelle de St. Martin de Sayssuel in the French village of Chasse, a hamlet in the Departement de L'Arrondissement de Vienne, 12 miles south of Lyon, in the Rhone River Valley.

It is rumored that Joan of Arc kissed one of the structure's stones before leading a battle against the British during the Hundred Years War in 1429. To this day, that stone supposedly feels colder than the others. The stone, however, is not original to the building, but was added later.

You can read a detailed history of the chapel and its journey to Milwaukee in this Urban Spelunking article.

“St. Joan of Arc Chapel is a historical treasure and the spiritual centerpiece of our campus,” Lovell said in a statement issued Thursday. “I want to thank the Slaggie Family Foundation for ensuring that this unique and beloved prayerful space will inspire our students and the Marquette community long into the future.”

The donation will create an endowment for the chapel and Marquette continues its fundraising efforts to underwrite the restoration.

“The values instilled in Catholic education and the importance of Catholic identity have always been ingrained in our family,” said Matthew Slaggie, a 2004 graduate from Marquette’s J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, in the Thursday statement. “It gives us a wonderful sense of pride knowing that the next generation will be able experience this spiritual space.”

The St. Joan of Arc Chapel falls under the purview of Marquette’s Haggerty Museum of Art, and in addition to hosting a weekly Tuesday evening mass, is has been the focus of a number of university classes and exhibitions.

Dedicated at Marquette in 1966 after having been moved from Jericho, on New York's Long Island, the chapel was donated in 1964 by Marc and Lillian Rojtman.

(PHOTO: Courtesy of Marquette University)

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.