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Annunciation Priory and University of Mary (Mary College)

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Mary College
1956–1968, Marcel Breuer with others. 7520 University Dr.
  • (Photograph by Steve C. Martens)

The buildings that Marcel Breuer designed for Annunciation Priory and Mary College are assuredly among North Dakota’s most significant works of architecture. The Priory and University of Mary grew from a boarding school established in Bismarck in 1878 by four sisters from St. Benedict’s in St. Joseph, Minnesota. Over the years, the work of the sisters expanded, and in 1944, the sisters of St. Benedict’s decided to form a monastic community in Bismarck. Named Convent of the Annunciation, in 1947 it was renamed Annunciation Priory, and since 1997 has been known as Annunciation Monastery. In the early 1950s, when the sisters began planning for the first campus buildings for Mary College, they invited Marcel Breuer to assist in giving form to their vision. At the time, Breuer was finishing his work for a new abbey and several university buildings at the men’s Benedictine monastery of St. John’s in Collegeville, Minnesota. Documentation in the monastery’s archives about the early planning of this complex emphasize that Breuer resisted taking on the commission until he visited the site, met with the sisters, and was overwhelmed by the power and presence of the landscape setting and the mission. The buildings he designed are notable for the use of native granite prairie stone, exquisite concrete shapes, and the interplay of light and shadow. The first buildings were a convent, dining hall, classrooms, and chapel, this last (BL18.1) replaced in 1963 in the second phase of construction. As the campus has grown and been transformed through the years, the sisters have endeavored to preserve the spirit of Breuer’s modernist prairie architecture while implementing new programs and new buildings by lesser-known architects. The sisters of the Annunciation maintain an important collection of historical documents of their working relationship with Breuer.

Writing Credits

Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay


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Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay, "Annunciation Priory and University of Mary (Mary College)", [Bismarck, North Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of North Dakota

Buildings of North Dakota, Steve C. Martens and Ronald H. L. M. Ramsay. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015, 198-199.

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