A back arrow

All Articles

A garden for Mother Mary

A garden for Mother Mary

Meagan Pant March 01, 2017

The University of Dayton library will house more than books this spring. For the first time, it will feature a living indoor garden filled with some of the hundreds of flowers and plants named in medieval times as symbols for the Virgin Mary.

The Mary’s Garden exhibit, which runs March 25 - May 10, also includes paintings of flowers by area artist Holly Schapker and history on Mary gardens from the personal collection of the movement’s founder, John S. Stokes Jr.


“It is really a unique approach to library exhibits,” said Sarah Cahalan, director of the University’s Marian Library, which houses the largest collection in the world of printed materials and artifacts on Mary, mother of Christ. “This is an opportunity for everyone to think about how gardening can play a role in their lives and to reflect on the spirituality of our interactions with nature.”

Gardens were first planted specifically for Mary as early as the seventh century. In the early 1950s, Stokes revived the tradition and brought it to America. His Mary Garden research is housed in a special collection at the Marian Library.

“Stokes really wanted to make Mary’s gardens accessible,” Cahalan said. “They were meant to be places of meditation and prayer, and he wanted them to be available even in the hustle and bustle of modern life. He wanted there to be options for people who didn’t have a lot of space or time, so he had suggestions for kitchen gardens, dish gardens. There isn’t just one way to plant a Mary’s garden. It can be different things to different people.”

The garden planted inside the library will change four times during the exhibit to reflect spring, summer, winter and fall. Visitors can stroll through the garden on a paved walkway. It is made possible through a partnership with Grunder Landscaping, owned by University alumnus Marty Grunder.

The exhibit is free and open to the public inside Roesch Library. The opening event will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, March 26.