Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien, of Baltimore, dedicated the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden in honor of the Pope’s 1995 visit to Baltimore, on Thursday, October 23 at 10 a.m. The garden, located at the corner of Charles and Franklin Streets in Baltimore, was constructed in six months and celebrates Baltimore and Maryland’s rich religious history.
The garden was designed by the Baltimore landscape architecture firm of Mahan Rykiel Associates, Inc. and constructed by Conewago Enterprises of Hanover, PA. Its design combines the serenity of landscape—grassy areas, flowers, and trees– with the versatility of hardscape–statuary and masonry imbued with religious writings and symbols– to create a contemplative and prayerful experience that seamlessly compliments a visit to the neighboring Baltimore Basilica, America’s First Cathedral.
The garden features plants, shrubs, and trees specifically chosen for their relation to the Bible, Pope John Paul II, or the local area. For example, the colors of the fall annuals reflect those of the Papal flag: yellow and white. In the spring, the blooming annuals will be red and white– the colors of the flag of the Pope’s native Poland. Kousa dogwood trees were chosen because they tell a “visual story of the crucifixon of Jesus,” according to Mr. Steve Kelly of Mahan-Rykiel. “The bracts (flowers) are in the shape of a cross, while the ends of the bracts resemble the nail scars and the blood. The center is the crown of thorns worn by Jesus.”
The centerpiece of the garden is a seven-feet-tall, 850-pound bronze statue perched atop a polished granite base, patterned after a photograph of Pope John Paul II’s 1995 arrival at BWI Airport. The sculpture, in which the Pope is greeting two children, was created by Baltimore native and internationally-renowned sculptor, Joseph Sheppard, who cast it at his studio in Pietrasanta, Italy.
Other notable features include: