Great Hall


Great Hall, 1883; unknown; September 2007






  • Built: 1879-1882
  • Bells raised: 1897
  • Renovated: 1929

What is now popularly known as "The Great Hall" originally served the community as the first University and Abbey Church*. It was built in the Romanesque style between 1879 and 1882 and is noted for the distinctive mural of Jesus Christ which is located in the apse and was painted by Benedictine monk Clement Frischauf.

Since its construction the space has seen a number of changes and renovations. In December of 1891, an organ was installed for the first time. The instrument was built and designed by the William Schuelke of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Further renovations of the church took place in the Spring of 1897 when a set of five bells were raised in the twin towers above the Church; the bells were all 'christened' after saints and mysteries. The removal of the signature bells and spires above the church was announced in 1960 over sixty years after their original installation.

In 1929 more extensive changes were made to the interior of the church. These included moving the side altars, baldachin, and communion rail to accommodate the growing student population at the university.

In 1942 the Abbey and University celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the church. The ceremony was attended by Bishop Seidenbusch.

When the new Abbey and University church was completed in the early 1960s the old church was formally turned into 'The Great Hall." In its new capacity, the Great Hall served as an information center, contained the porter's office, and provided telephones for on and off campus calls.

In 2002 the university commissioned five professionals from the Upper Midwest Conservation Association to clean and update the mural of Jesus Christ in the apse. The process included removing deposits of dirt and incense, repairing cracks, and touching up paint.


*For more detailed information on the Great Hall's construction and early days as the Abbey Church, see:

  • Tingerthal, Rhaban. "Saint John's First Abbey Church." Scriptorium 19, 1960: p. 1
  • Maeder, Tobias. "Saint John's First Abbey Church (II)." Scriptorium 20, 1961: p. 31