A Celebration of Faith and History
The St. Francis Colonnade and Gardens serve as a holy and contemplative space on campus where students, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors come to reflect and grow closer to God. The space has also hosted many commencement ceremonies and serves as a cherished memory for so many of our alumni.
Since 2006, the Friends of Riverdale and Marian University have been working to restore this rare nationally registered Jens Jensen-designed historic landscape that is a part of the former Riverdale Estate.
St. Francis Statue
The St. Francis statue first arrived on campus in 1941 and was placed to the right, and in front of, what is now the Paul J. Norman Center. The statue was moved and placed just west of Allison Mansion in 1949 following the completion of Clare Hall and a new entrance to campus.
The statue has always been a focal point and subject to countless photos. The saint sits surrounded by his beloved creatures as he blesses Marian University.
The colonnade restoration will require:
- the complete reconstruction of the 24 stratified stone pillars, including new anchoring of the colonnade into the hillside,
- the restoration of a wooden arbor on top of the pillars,
- the planting of clematis, wisteria, grape, and other climbing plants, along with
- additional supporting masonry and native plantings.
Jens Jensen’s Landscape
Jens Jensen, known as the “Prophet of the Prairie,” created a uniquely American style of landscape architecture, much as his contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright did with design of structures. Although Jens Jensen designed more than 350 private estates during his career, fewer than 10 percent of them remain today.
At Marian University, the colonnade and arbor which anchors the formal garden provides a viewing platform for the more naturalized landscape Jensen designed for the area below the bluff on which the Allison Mansion sits. The colonnade also represents an adaptation of Jensen’s famous council ring, with which he sought to encourage outdoor activities such as games, storytelling, and singing.