The romantic and picturesque Stella Maris Chapel (meaning “Star of the Sea”) has nestled among the trees of Lake Sagatagan since 1872.Originally, it was situated on what was then called Doctor’s Island, named after a teacher who dropped his gold-rimmed glasses on the site. Since the chapel was built, however, it has been referred to as Chapel Island.
This small chapel is an important part of the Saint John's Abbey, a community of Catholic Benedictine men, and is the location of a number of structures designed by the modernist Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer.
The chapel survived the tornado of 1894, but was burnt down in 1903, by a lightning strike. In 1915, the young monks of the abbey completed a new Stella Maris Chapel on the same site. 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. Materials for the chapel were brought by sled over the lake during the winter or by horse drawn wagon in the summer. This structure remains the frame of the present chapel.
The chapel had been a site of devotion for the monks but, over the years, it suffered from neglect, vandalism and misuse. It underwent renovations in 1943 and in 1989, but remained not so much a place of pilgrimage, but just a destination for a walk.
The recent, most comprehensive renovation, envisioned by architect Ed Sovik from Northfield, MN, restores the site as a spiritual and intimate jewel of the Lake. The front entrance of the chapel was redesigned, new stained glass windows were installed, and the Magnificat — the pregnant Mary’s prayer — was inscribed on the entrance wall of the chapel.
The architect’s suggestion for a statue of a pregnant Mary was accepted despite, or perhaps because, of its rarity in art history