A living tradition of care
In 1953, Benedictine Women of Madison set down roots on a hill overlooking Lake Mendota and the skyline of Madison, Wisconsin. The original 40 acres consisted of farmland cleared in the early 1900s. Today, Holy Wisdom Monastery (formerly Saint Benedict Center) includes 138 acres with a 10,000-year-old glacial lake, wooded nature trails, restored prairie, gardens and orchards.
Reverence for creation is a deeply-held Benedictine value. The sisters, in partnership with co-workers, hundreds of volunteers, agencies and organizations, do their part to preserve an oasis of quiet beauty where all can come and experience God’s presence.
Lost Lake lies at the western boundary of Holy Wisdom Monastery. Originally more than nine acres in surface area, the basin had been reduced to less than two acres due to sedimentation from surrounding farming practices and residential development. Eighty-five thousand cubic yards of accumulated silt have been removed from the lake and the shoreline restored with native plants.
Restored to near its original depth, the lake again acts as a natural deterrent that detains and filters water that would otherwise wash downstream to neighboring properties and Lake Mendota. Over 200 acres of land drain into Lost Lake. This restoration was designated a demonstration project of the Lake Mendota Priority Watershed in 1996. The project received a Yahara Lakes Association Certificate of Appreciation in 1997 and the Dane County Waters Champion Award in 2005.
When settlers arrived in Wisconsin in the early 1800s, prairie covered more than two million acres of the state. Today, fewer than 3,500 acres of prairie remain. Benedictine Women of Madison is returning much of their land to pre-settlement conditions. The sisters believe this land is a gift of natural beauty to be shared with all who come to Holy Wisdom Monastery.
Prairie restoration activities began in 1996 and continue each year. To date, about 100 acres have been restored to upland prairie with donated seed or seed collected by volunteers and college interns. Each year, 10 to 20 acres were hand sown with a large variety of native Wisconsin prairie flowers and grasses. These plants have long, deep root systems which prevent soil erosion. This project received the Wisconsin Business Friend of the Environment Award in 1998.
A detention basin was created on the eastern side of the property; a soil berm was built below the natural grass waterway. Prairies can absorb 5–7 inches of rain within an hour.
The structure can hold, purify and slowly release 10.5 acre-feet of water, providing a key part of the environmental protection of the north shore of Lake Mendota. In recognition of these environmental efforts, this wetland preserve was made a Lake Mendota Priority Watershed Demonstration Project.
View awards received by Holy Wisdom Monastery.
For more information, contact Mike at 608-836-1631, x124.