Who Was That Doris Duke, Anyway?

March 31, 2006
Buck's daughter Doris: laying Chapel cornerstone

 Buck's daughter Doris: laying Chapel cornerstone Photo: Duke University Archives

 

During a January episode of Jeopardy!, host Alex Trebek stumped all three contestants with the following clue: "The tower of the Duke Chapel was inspired by the Bell Harry Tower of this English cathedral."

That clue, one of a series involving Duke on the show, would not have baffled Caroline Bruzelius, Duke's Anne M. Cogan Professor of Art and Art History and an expert in medieval architecture. "Canterbury," she says immediately, referring to the fifteenth-century cathedral in Canterbury, United Kingdom. To be more specific, she adds, "the crossing tower of Canterbury," nicknamed "Bell Harry" and located at the intersection of the cross-shaped building.

The limestone towers at Duke and Canterbury share a late English Gothic style called "Perpendicular," she says. To enhance the sense of the tower's reach upwards, the towers have closely spaced and delicate vertical moldings up their sides and spires at the top.

Duke Chapel and the Canterbury Cathedral are not, however, exactly alike, Bruzelius says. Their towers are at different places--the Cathedral's is at the center and the Chapel's is integrated into the entrance.

The architecture inside Duke Chapel was influenced more by the chapel at Princeton University and by general trends in American Collegiate Gothic design than by medieval English design, she says. Still, she adds that she sees a similar purpose in both towers. Canterbury Cathedral was built as "a great symbol of medieval piety" and Duke Chapel was designed as "a wonderful symbolic statement ... of the importance of religion."

Other clues posed for Jeopardy! contestants concerned a ringtailed lemur from the Duke Primate Center, the "Blue Devil" nickname, Duke research about E.S.P. from the 1920s, and Doris Duke, whom contestants also failed to identify.