Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden
Pope John Paul II and his two visits to the Basilica inspired a commemorative prayer garden adjacent to the Basilica complex, which opened to the public on October 24, 2008. The pontiff, who came to Baltimore in October 1995, was paying the formal visitation of a Pope to one of his Basilicas, but it was not his first trip. In 1976 he visited the Baltimore Basilica as Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, with seventeen other Polish bishops.
This beautiful space is located at the corner of Franklin and North Charles Streets, adjacent to the Basilica. One of a few green spaces in downtown Baltimore, the garden provides pilgrims and visitors with an outdoor spiritual retreat within the city, while paying homage to Pope John Paul II, one of the 20th century’s true visionaries. The centerpiece of the garden is a statue of the Holy Father with two children, sculpted by Joseph Sheppard. This statue is based on a photograph taken during his 1995 Papal Visit to Baltimore.
The Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden is open 7 days a week from 9am until 3pm. Please note that during inclement weather and on holidays, the Pope John Paul II Prayer Garden is closed to visitors.
Click here to view a photo gallery of the garden.
If you would like to incorporate the Prayer Garden as part of your group tour of the Basilica, simply request to see the Garden when you are scheduling your tour. For more information about tours of the Basilica and the Prayer Garden, please click here.
- An overhead view reveals the garden’s fish shape, reflecting the image often associated with Jesus throughout the Bible.
- An oval lawn takes the shape of the “fish’s head” and a brick pathway forms the perimeter of the entire fish shape.
- The bricks used in the garden match those used in the streetscape on Charles and Franklin Streets, while the iron fence is a modern interpretation of the one that surrounds the adjacent Basilica.
- A granite wall, forming the southern border of the garden, will be inscribed with a quote from the Pope about religious freedom and will be lit at night. The Pope’s words come from his visit to the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in 1995.
- Stainless steel bands are also embedded in the wall and bear the symbols of the three monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
- The concrete pillars holding up the inscription wall bear the seal of the Archdiocese and the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II.
- The mural banner depicts the following flowers traditionally associated with Mary: Rose, symbolizing the Virgin herself (early rosary beads were made from compressed rose petals); Lily of the Valley, also called “Our Lady’s Tears” (it was said to have grown where Mary wept); Marigold, called “Mary’s Gold” by early Christians who placed the flowers around statues of Mary, offering the blossoms in place of coins; and Lily, a symbol of the Annunciation and Mary’s purity (according to tradition, the soft whiteness of the Madonna lily became so only after she picked one--prior to that it had been yellow).