Skip to main content

University of Northwestern got its start way back in 1902. If you do the math, you’ll figure out that we are rapidly approaching our 120th anniversary!

Northwestern started out as Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School at the First Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

Sometime later, on the other side of town, Archbishop Austin Dowling of the Catholic archdiocese obtained approval for the construction of a seminary on a piece of land next to Lake Johanna, and in 1922 Nazareth Hall was built as a Catholic preparatory seminary.

“We got 89 acres on the lake that look like Venice, Italy. We call that providential.”

Professor Emeritus of art and design, Dr. Mark Baden

Flash-forward to today, we still appreciate Nazareth Hall’s beautiful architecture.

However, if we look deeper, we can also see that it has rich history and symbolism built into it. In a YouTube video about the architecture of Nazareth Hall, Dr. Mark Baden, a retired professor of art and design, explains the significance and meaning of different elements in the building.

Baden provides fascinating information about the numerical significance of the number of steps to enter the terrace, which is seven. He explains the significance of the three doorways from the terrace into Nazareth Hall and the meaning of the three symbols above each door: one representing faith, one representing hope and one representing love.

“It’s really quite incredible that we were able to purchase this property. We got 89 acres on the lake that looks like Venice, Italy. We call that providential.” Says Dr. Baden.

Another part of Nazareth Hall that many UNW students are familiar with are the tunnels.

When Nazareth was built it was the only major building until Riley Hall, which was built in 1961.

The tunnel from Nazareth to Riley was helpful considering Minnesota’s cold and snowy winters. It also accommodated utility lines that would have otherwise needed to be buried deeper than the frost line. Once Knight Hall was built in 1982, it was connected to Nazareth with a tunnel due to, again, Minnesota winters.

In 2011 when the Billy Graham Commons was built it was between Nazareth and Riley, so the tunnel was modified to make it accessible to The Billy.

Along with the main tunnels most are familiar with, there is also another tunnel that is not accessible to students and has a hidden door.

But that’s an article for another day.