Sites, Symbols and Seal
Saint Xavier University contains an academic seal and many religious landmark sites and symbols that can be observed throughout the campus and University community.
From its earliest design honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary to the coat of arms shield of today, the official seal of Saint Xavier University symbolizes a proud history of Catholic education in Chicago.
This seal or shield, designed by Saint Xavier University art department faculty member Sister Mary Solina Hicks, R.S.M., includes:
- a black and white checkerboard and diagonal gold bars from the family coat of arms of Saint Francis Xavier, the Jesuit patron of Mother Frances Xavier Warde, the founder of Saint Xavier University;
- red and gold bars and a white Jerusalem cross taken from the shield of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas;
- an open book to represent education;
- and the Scripture verse, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), which is the translation of the University's Latin motto "Via, Veritas, Vita."
Saint Xavier University continues to use this seal as a symbol of its Catholic identity and Mercy heritage and its mission of higher education.
Several campus sites and architectural features embody aspects of Saint Xavier University's educational mission, Catholic identity and Mercy heritage. These symbols inform, remind and inspire members of the University community, and visitors, about Saint Xavier's long and storied tradition. Their presence captures something of the University's character in stone and metal and glass. Among the more prominent of these sites and symbols are the following.
This cast-iron bell, located near the main entrance of the Warde Academic Center, began its service to Saint Xavier when it was still located in Chicago's downtown area. Having survived the Chicago Fire of 1871, the bell moved steadily southward with Saint Xavier until it was apparently lost in the relocation to 103rd Street. Salvaged and safeguarded by a Sister of Mercy, the bell returned to Saint Xavier in 2004 and was installed in its current place of honor.
Designed to house Saint Xavier's rare book collection, this elegant room within the University library is named for the city's first Roman Catholic bishop, William Quarter, who brought the Sisters of Mercy to Chicago.
Creating a formal entry to the Smith-Morris Quad, the 49th Street Gateway Arch symbolizes both Saint Xavier's past and its future. The Arch replicates one that stood at the entrance to the Saint Xavier College campus at 49th and Cottage Grove Avenue (1901-1955). Recreated on the Saint Xavier University 103rd Street campus in 2009, the Arch figures prominently in the annual Medallion Ceremony that welcomes new students to the academic community. The 49th Street Gateway Arch is a symbol of Saint Xavier's long history in Chicago and a tribute to all -- students, staff and faculty -- who have played a part in its long service of education.
A statue of Mary, titled "Our Lady," was designed by former chairperson of Saint Xavier University's Art and Design Department Linae Frei '58 and was first dedicated in 1964. The original sculpture was made possible by the generosity of alumni, friends and supporters of Saint Xavier who underwrote the project by purchasing square inches of land at the west end of the campus lake for $1 each. The first home of "Our Lady" came to be known as Our Lady's Acre.
After 20 years of exposure to the elements, the much-weathered "Our Lady" was restored and refurbished by master craftsman and renowned sculpture conservator Andrej Dajnowski. At that time, it was moved to its current location, by the west entrance in Mary's Circle. This circular plaza that frames the bronze statue contains memorial bricks purchased in memory of loved ones and in tribute to cherished mentors.
The statue welcomes all with her outstretched arms and inviting lap, expressing the Mercy spirit and University core value of hospitality. "Our Lady" beckons all to sit and savor a peaceful pause in their daily activities.
Leading into McDonough Chapel and the Mercy Ministry is the Heritage Walk with the names of key Sisters of Mercy in our history. They include the University's namesake, Mother Frances Xavier Warde and the five Sisters who established the Sisters of Mercy in Chicago, Mother Agatha O'Brien, Sr. Vincent McGirr, Sr. Gertrude McGuire, Sr. Josephine Corbett, and Sr. Veronica Schmidt. It also includes the names of the 10 Sisters of Mercy who have served as Presidents of Saint Xavier. The Heritage Walk, rededicated on Mission Day, March 27, 2019, is dedicated in grateful appreciation to all the Sisters of Mercy who have served on this campus.
Along the walkway from the McDonough Chapel to the main entrance of the Warde Academic Center stands the Mercy Rock inscribed with the names and founding dates of the 17 colleges and universities now sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy through the Conference for Mercy Higher Education (CMHE). At the head of the list is Saint Xavier, founded in 1846 and the oldest Mercy institution of higher education in the world. Installed on campus in 2005, the Mercy Rock honors the historic and continuing educational mission of the Sisters of Mercy at Saint Xavier -- once through the local Chicago community and now through the national association of CMHE.
A beautiful stained-glass window depicting Mother Catherine McAuley and a young female student is located in the east entrance of the Warde Academic Center. It was truly a homecoming when the window returned to Saint Xavier in 2005. Once, this window graced the Saint Xavier chapel at 49th Street and Cottage Grove. When that building was razed in the late 1950s, the salvaged window started a long but mysterious journey to New Orleans, back to Chicago and finally back to the Sisters of Mercy, who have placed it on permanent loan with the institution that was its first home, Saint Xavier.
Saint Xavier University proudly proclaims its basic educational philosophy in the form of the eight pillars that dominate the main entrance to the Warde Academic Center. Just as they support the entrance canopy, so the liberal arts and sciences support SXU's academic program. In gold letters at the top of each pillar is emblazoned the name of one of the classical liberal arts: the trivium of grammar, logic, rhetoric and the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music. The eighth pillar boasts the word "wisdom," the intended goal of a Saint Xavier education.
Saint Xavier University commissioned a sculpture of the American founder of the Sister of Mercy, Frances Xavier Warde, R.S.M., by artist Sister Marie Henderson, R.S.M., for dedication on Mission Day 2018. Cast in bronze, this artistic rendering of Frances Xavier Warde reflects her image at 35 years of age, when she and five other pioneering Irish women brought the first Sisters of Mercy to the fledgling city of Chicago in 1846. Mother Frances Xavier Warde, Sisters Agatha O'Brien, novices Vincent McGirr and Gertrude McGuire, and postulants Eliza (Sr. Josephine) Corbett and Eva (Sr. Veronica) Schmidt are considered the founders of Saint Xavier University. The annals of the Sisters of Mercy note, "It is probable that no woman has lived to whom the church in the United States owes more than it does to Frances Warde."
This statue, representing the University's patron saint, once stood in the chapel at Saint Xavier's 49th Street and Cottage Grove campus and now dominates the atrium of McDonough Chapel and the Mercy Ministry Center. The parallels between the vocation and ministry of Saint Francis Xavier, Spanish Jesuit missionary and educator of the 16th century, and Mother Frances Xavier Warde, Irish Sister of Mercy missionary and educator of the 19th century, are remarkable. Together, they lend their names and inspiration to Saint Xavier University. While Mother Frances' name graces the University's main academic building, Saint Francis' figure reminds all of the University's deeply rooted Catholicism.
"The Spirit Will Teach You All Things" is the name of the seven stained-glass windows that loom majestically over the main reading room of the University library. Donated by the late Mayor Richard J. Daley as a tribute to his father, these exquisite windows are an artistic rendering of Saint Xavier's commitment to the liberal arts and sciences. Symbols for the classical trivium and quadrivium -- grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music -- are embedded in the windows. The Holy Spirit, portrayed as a dove in flight, soars over the whole to signify wisdom, the goal of all learning.