Stella Maris Chapel

Stella Maris Chapel, 2007, 2011 and 2008 (click thumbnails for larger images)
More photos
Cornerstone Document

Architect: Vincent Schiffrer, OSB (original chapel of 1872); Gilbert Winkelmann, OSB (present chapel of 1915); Cloud Meinberg, OSB (renovation of 1943)

Contractor: Monks of Saint John's Abbey


  • Built: 1872
  • Rebuilt 1915
  • Renovated: 1943, 1989, and 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 1989, a new roof was added, general brick and wall repair completed, paint applied and a new altar erected.  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.  The field stone buttresses were removed and replaced with concrete buttresses more in scale with the size of the chapel, the interior was plastered, the exterior stuccoed, the floor covered with Mexican tile, and new stained glass windows and an entry door were installed.  Until the renovation, the Chapel had become not so much a place of pilgrimage, as a destination for a walk; once or twice a year the Saint John's University or Alumni Chaplain would celebrate a Mass at the chapel.  Time will tell whether it resumes its more sacred and devotional role.


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Last updated July 10, 2013.