No, Melville's face is not actually in the Bethel. But they both Melville and the Seamen's Bethel are tied very closely together.

"Erected May 2, 1832, by the New Bedford Port Society, the Seamen’s Bethel is a landmark honoring the New Bedford whalers and fisherman who perished at sea. Thirty-one cenotaphs hang in remembrance of these individuals, encased in black frames (possessing semblance to traditional gravestones), and adorned with hand-carved text. Cenotaph means ‘empty grave.’ It is a tomb, plaque, or monument dedicated to a person whose body or remains are buried in an alternate location. Twenty-three of these cenotaphs are dated prior to 1900, and each provides a brief summary of the hardship associated with the person’s death. In some cases entire crews were lost at sea, and a few more current cenotaphs remember these affiliates.

In 1851, the Seamen’s Bethel was given everlasting fame when it was referenced in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Melville describes a scene set in the Bethel, depicting a sermon given from an imagined pulpit that didn’t exist during Melville’s time. However, after the 1956 Moby Dick film was released, a pulpit mirroring the film version (as the prow of a ship) was added to the Bethel in 1961 to promote tourism. Melville himself visited the chapel in 1840. The pew where he sat is now inscribed with a dedication to him.

The Whaleman's Chapel mentioned in Moby Dick is actually the Seamen's Bethel.

An excerpt from Moby Dick states, “In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman’s Chapel, and few are the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot.” It was tradition for a whaler to visit the chapel before any departure to the sea, and this is what Melville was referring to."


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