The chapel at Bangor Theological Seminary has stood watch over the neighborhood bordered by Union and Ohio streets and West Broadway for 189 years.
It’s a place where kids gather in the shadow of the chapel steeple to sled down the gently sloping hill after winter snowstorms.
Now, the seminary has set aside another kind of space it hopes will beckon people to rest, contemplate and pray during other seasons as well.
Seminary President William Imes said recently that the Park of Peace and Light is intended to be a place of respite for students and faculty as well as the community.
Waldoboro sculptor Stephen Parmley was selected to design the garden, which includes a marble sculpture of a dove perched atop a 5-foot tall granite pedestal. The garden includes granite benches, too.
The artist put the finishing touches on the park last week, and the seminary expects to dedicate it in October.
“I wanted it to have the look of a semiformal English garden, but realized later that it was it was in the shape of a Celtic cross,” Parmley said of the space.
“The dove is not just a symbol for peace,” he said. “In my research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I found images of doves rising above the head of Christ in a ring of light to represent the Holy Spirit. These images are very old and many are pre-Renaissance.”
Parmley, 50, chose to depict the dove at rest rather than a bird in flight, a stylized form the sculptor is known for. Made of imperial gold marble from Danby, Vt., it weighs more than 250 pounds and is about 3 feet long.
It is the whitest marble available this region, he said.
“The dove’s restfully watching us,” Parmley said, “but its beak points upward – heavenward. The pedestal also gives it a lift and helps move the eye upward.”
The pedestal sits in a small circular garden surrounded by a brick walkway. The granite base, taken from a recently reopened quarry in Frankfort, is wider at the bottom than it is at the top. Cuts in its four sides look like stair steps and get progressively smaller from bottom to top.
In the outermost garden surrounding the walkway are huge boulders – most of them smooth, rounded granite. But three are flecked with mica and they glitter in the afternoon sunlight. Tall, orange Asiatic lilies peek over them, bending in the breeze toward the dove like obedient clerics. Juniper bushes separate the garden area from the grass.
Parmley selected plants for the garden that would flower as often as possible in Maine’s short growing season. He said that earlier this year daffodils and crocuses bloomed in the garden. He has discussed with the seminary building and grounds crew adding more bulbs this fall and new perennials next spring.
The garden was approved last year as part of the seminary’s $3 million capital campaign. An alumnus donated money for the sculpture of the dove.
Through the Doors to the Future campaign, $1 million of the $3 million raised was earmarked for improvements to the seminary’s physical plant. The remaining $2 million was divided evenly between student scholarships and faculty salaries and research.