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Sacred Space and the Allen Centennial Garden

Monday, July 01, 2019
by Beth Allen | Special Events Intern

My name is Beth Allen, and I am the Special Events Intern at the Garden. One of the most influential experiences I have had as a freshman at UW-Madison was visiting the Garden for my Religious Studies course. Our professor, Dr. Corrie Norman, challenged us to apply what we were learning about sacred spaces to the Garden. We were asked to write an analysis of the Garden’s design and how that created a “sacred space.” This experience not only drove me to work in the Garden but also inspired me to work towards a Religious Studies Certificate. 
 

Mircea Eliade, one of the most prominent religious scholars of the 20th century, studied the religious experience and what made a space “sacred.” In Eliade’s Symbolism in the Centre, he states that “every Microcosm, every inhabited region, has a Centre” known as an axis mundi. In the Garden, the axis mundi would be the Dean’s Residence- after all, it is arguably the focal point of the Garden- all of the paths lead there. Historically, the care and dedication put in by past agricultural deans has created an honored and respected historical space. Most importantly, the axis mundi is important for the future of the space. 

In his work The Sacred & The Profane, Eliade claims that the axis mundi is a “central axis for future orientation.” The existence of the Dean’s Residence and its central location suggest that it is important to the “future orientation” of the lives of students, as the Dean is responsible for many decisions that affect the daily lives of the students.
 
If you're interseted in learning more about the Dean's Residence, visit the Allen Centennial Garden History portion of our website here!

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Madison WI 53706
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