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Annunciation Chapel

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1959–1963, Marcel Breuer with Hamilton P. Smith and Traynor and Hermanson
  • (Photograph by Steve C. Martens)
  • (Photograph by Steve C. Martens)

The spiritually powerful Annunciation priory is a masterwork by one of the most celebrated twentieth-century architects. Breuer referred to his work as a “jewel on the prairie.” Consecrated in 1963, Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel is constructed of concrete and local granite fieldstone. High above the Missouri River, the chapel is marked by the concrete bell tower that soars one hundred feet above the rolling countryside and that, according to the nuns, symbolizes strength, stability, vision, and faithful presence. The three bells: Hilary, Joseph, and Mary, call the Benedictine sisters to prayer each day. The cross carved out of the top of the tower represents the risen Christ, and the opening allows the North Dakota winds to sail through. A shadow of the cross is cast on the chapel during the winter solstice as a reminder of the resurrection.

Walls of split fieldstone are left natural on the exterior, and painted white on the interior. Breuer’s meticulous attention to light, shadow, texture, and use of form and space are evident throughout the chapel. The sanctuary features a reredos of gold-leafed ceramic tile and a cantilevered baldachin over the polished blue granite altar. In keeping with Breuer’s functional style, the 1,641 pipes of the chapel’s Reuter organ are visible in the balcony above the main entrance.

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 Chapel", [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, 199-199.

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