Medieval garden sprouts on campus

St. Clare’s Garden has many of the elements of a traditional medieval garden with some special Santa Clara touches.

Santa Clara University has a new garden that offers a look back in time.

Called St. Clare’s Garden, the 72-by-72 foot site is named for St. Clare, an herbalist who founded an order of nuns and was also known for her own garden, where St. Francis recuperated at one point.

The contemplative garden, located next to the de Saisset Museum, has many of the elements of a traditional medieval garden as well as some special Santa Clara touches. The traditional elements include a bay tree and herbs and scents such as rosemary, thyme, and boxwood. Extra touches include a blue-and-white garden for the Virgin Mary, a rose trellis, a centerpiece Mission-era Native American grinding stone, and a redwood tree. Two benches offer a place for quiet contemplation.

Plans for the garden started when Department of History Chair Tom Turley came back from a visit to Pennsylvania State University and talked about a medieval garden he saw there. History Administrative Assistant Ann Beyer wondered if a similar garden could be constructed at SCU.

Thanks to a generous gift from Wilmot Nicholson ’36 in memory of his wife, Ruth, and design expertise of former SCU adjunct faculty member Nancy Lucid, the plans became a reality.

The University’s Medieval/ Renaissance Studies Program coordinated the multi-department project, which also involved representatives of the anthropology department and the SCU’s landscape management team.

“This was an enormous undertaking and only came to fruition because a lot of people worked very hard,” said History Professor Dorothea French, who directs the Medieval/Renaissance Studies Program. “This will become a significant attraction to visitors to SCU.”

post-image The medieval garden, as viewed through its arbor across Palm Drive toward Bannan Hall, was funded by Wilmot Nicholson '36, in memory of his wife, Ruth.
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