Holy Cross Chapel

the Chapel

The Benedictine Sisters of St Martin Monastery shared the following information about the features of Holy Cross Chapel – from a brochure published in the late 1960s.  Features that were updated during the renovations in 2010 are noted.

The chapel is fan-shaped in the plan, and it is wide in relation to depth, to gather the participants closer to the table and focus them on the sacrifice. The space from its broad functional plan is tapered upward from the side wall to the apex on the main axis and from the front upward to the rear of the sanctuary wall. This space thus enveloped and uninterrupted is one room focused on the table of sacrifice.

Its loftiness is derived from the architectural form developed to punctuate the grouping of buildings and to complement its natural surrounding, the foothills of the Black Hills of South Dakota. The interior finishings rely on the natural qualities of the basic building materials used: stone, wood and concrete. The roof structure of boomerang-shaped wood beams and wood roof deck is exposed. It complements the bold concrete paneled frames from which the roof beams are hung and from which they swoop down to the side walls. The walls are of a reddish native sandstone and are laid-up in a polygonal or web masonry joining.

The chandeliers are on the main axis and hung from the apex sixty-five feet from the floor.

Holy Cross Chapel at Terra Sancta

the Altar

The deep frontal mensa has a field design of incised Benedictine crosses formed by intersecting circles representing the Infinite. This motif imparts a lace-like texture to this large piece. The supporting elements of the top are sculptured in forms and opening recalled from architectural motifs used throughout.

During the renovations, the original nine foot wide altar was disassembled and made smaller.  Sections of the marble were then used to make the presider’s chair and the ambo.


the Corpus

The corpus is made of lindenwood, a fine grained wood of a European tree, covered with a silver sheeting carefully attached with nails at points which seem to conceal the seams. Executed in a contemporary and spiritual manner, it is basically realistic.

This carving was done by the late Johann Baptist Delago, who was born September 27, 1901 in St. Ulrich in Southern Tyrol, Germany. In 1939 he successfully passed the final examination of professional sculptor in Munich, Germany and from that time was self-employed. He arranged exhibitions of his work in Munich and Duesseldorf, and in 1938 he received a gold medal for his carving, “The Farmer’s Wife and Child”, displayed at the Paris International Exposition.

Carvings executed by this craftsman have been in various Churches and Monasteries in South and West Germany, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Mexico, South America and the United States. He died in March, 1960.

the Windows

Window openings in the glass are glazed with faceted glass, and their shape recalls various forms used throughout other buildings in the complex.

The large front window of faceted glass is placed between the legs of the frame supporting the roof structure. This window is on the main axis of the room and opposite the altar of sacrifice.

The incident in the life of St. Martin dividing his cloak with the beggar, and the vision of Our Lord, who appeared to him, holding the half of the cloak he had given to the beggar, is depicted in the facade window.

The three angels who appeared to St. Martin in his vision, and who are of lesser importance, are smaller, and are placed at the head and arms of the cross.

Gold, the color of heavenly glory, is used for the cloak, and to add to the unity of thought, the golden color is reflected in the face of the beggar and in that of Our Lord.

In dividing his cloak, St. Martin, who at the time was a soldier, also divided his life. He was baptized and from that moment decided to fight for Christ. His sacrifice, and that of Our Lord for us, is portrayed by the Cross and in the red-violet colors of the glass.

The structural V form which is both at the top and bottom of the facade is repeated in the glass, both at the top in red and at a more gentle angle at the bottom. It is again related and carried out into the gray rays, seeming to form another larger cloak which envelopes the entire composition, as the Love of God envelopes all Christendom.

Resurrection Chapel

Resurrection Chapel

The “Resurrection Chapel” with its gem-like faceted glass windows is on the south side. The colors are a warm, deep golden yellow for the sun, a deeper gold for the grain, and a deep rich green, the color of hope, growth, immortality and victory for the background.

There is the rising Sun of Glory, a symbol of the Advent of Our Lord. The reference is to Malachi 4:2 “Bunt unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” It is surrounded by the circle of eternity, with alternating straight and wavy rays of glory proceeding from it. The sun is also a symbol of hope, of eternal reward and of glory in heaven.

The wheat is a symbol of the bounty and goodness of God and of thanksgiving. It also symbolizes the Church on earth, the Eucharist and those who believe.

Combined with the Sun of glory, the wheat takes on added glory. Through the rays of the sun it ripens, is made into hosts and is consecrated. Consumed by the faithful, it is Christ within our hearts. The windows were designed by Felix Senger in the Conrad Schmitt Studio in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


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(605) 716-0925

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