Campus Ministry: Plaza Site and Symbolism
The plaza connects academic buildings to spaces devoted to socialization, faith and worship, service, and student leadership and development. It is a sign of the integration of the University’s mission of teaching, faith and service—pathways to all of these activities intersect at the garden and plaza.
Through the plaza around the tower extend seven rays. Six of these rays are blue, a color which is traditionally associated with Mary. The seventh ray, which extends to the statue of Mary, is composed of living plants and flowers.
The number seven holds many references in Christian tradition—it is an ancient number of perfection and fullness. For example, the story of creation unfolds over seven days, there are seven sacraments in the Catholic faith, and Our Lady of the Cross (the name of Mary that is the patroness of the priests and brothers of Holy Cross) experienced seven sorrows.
Integral to the plaza and garden are the four basalt stones that contain the titles of the four mysteries of the rosary. The rosary is a devotional prayer that invites us to reflectively enter into different aspects of Mary’s life. Through prayer of the rosary, we step in Mary’s shoes as an exemplary disciple of Jesus, from her “yes” to God’s invitation to bear Jesus to the world, to her presence at the foot of the cross, to her assumption into heaven as an example of the resurrection. The rosary has been called the “epitome of the gospel” because it allows us to enter into the life of Jesus through Mary’s eyes.
The trees surrounding the plaza also refers to Mary. Revelation 12:1 describes the figure of Mary as “a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of 12 stars.” The trees are all flowering white cherry trees and the twelve trees, when in bloom, will be like the 12 stars of the woman’s crown.
The number 12 also has much significance in Christian tradition as a universal number: there were 12 tribes of Israel, so the number refers to the fullness of God’s people; Jesus gathered 12 disciples around him as a reconfiguration of this fullness.
The cross and anchors is a symbol of the Congregation of Holy Cross, which is devoted to the cross of Christ as “our only hope.” The anchor is also an ancient Christian symbol of hope. The intertwined cross and anchors can be found all about campus, but especially in this bell tower and plaza: it is included above each of the four rosary mysteries, and is etched in the glass center of the cross that stands at the top of the tower.