Stella Maris Chapel

Dates: 1872; rebuilt 1915; renovated: 1943, 1989, 2007

In 1872 a romantic and picturesque chapel was built across Lake Sagatagan to honor Mary, the Mother of God, under the title of Stella Maris (meaning “Star of the Sea”). Originally it was situated on what was then called Doctor’s Island named after an English teacher (Dr. Aylward) who dropped his glasses on the site. However since the chapel was built, it has been referred to as Chapel Island. The water level was higher at the time making it an island, but it is now only a peninsula approached by a wooden walkway. The original chapel was a small gothic red brick structure 16' by 12' with a white spire. The chapel survived the tornado of 1894, but was burnt down on April 17, 1903, by a lightning strike. For eleven years nothing remained of the chapel except the foundation and underbrush.

In 1915, the young monks of the abbey completed a new Stella Maris Chapel on the same site using red cement block with white stones for ornamentation. Gilbert Winkelmann, OSB, designed a larger Romanesque style chapel with a wooden altar and a steeple as well as a statue of the Blessed Mother. Abbot Peter Engel blessed and laid the corner stone for the chapel on June 13, 1915. But the planned bell in the tower and a fountain with benches for rest and meditation were never completed. Materials for the chapel were brought by sled over the lake during the winter or by horse drawn wagon in the summer. The chapel had been a site of devotion for the monks but, over the years, it suffered from neglect, vandalism and misuse. In 1943, under the direction of Cloud Meinberg, OSB, the stolen corner stone was replaced and the walls were given new strength by the addition of buttresses. The young monks worked all summer to fashion stained glass windows and Cloud sketched on the wall a painting of the Blessed Virgin (which has since faded and disappeared). In 2007, as part of the 150th anniversary of St. John's, Don Hall, SJP class of 1955, financed a somewhat controversial renovation of the chapel. 

Stella Maris Chapel