The Church of St. Francis of Assisi has deep roots within the community of Bakersfield, CA. The Church’s history traces back to the 1880’s and has been a historic site of worship in Bakersfield for thousands upon thousands of families. Over the decades, the Church campus has gone through various remodels but one area in particular was in dire need of attention: the Memorial to the Virgin Mary. The beautiful, nearly 1,000 pound marble statue of Mary sat in a simple planter against the blank backdrop of the Church’s walls. And, while this is easily one of the most visited memorial statues at the Church, it offered very little in the way of seating for prayer and reflection. This had to change, and St. Francis’ Monsignor Craig Harrison commissioned Bakersfield landscape company, Monji Landscape Co., to create a memorial that would due the Virgin Mary justice.
The Bakersfield landscape design company sought to design and build a memorial unlike any other in the world. “We wanted this to be a Living Memorial to the Virgin Mary,” commented Dan Monji, Monji Landscape Co.’s Senior Designer. “We wanted Mary to have a work of art as her backdrop and to create a healing, spiritual environment for the congregation. Also, St. Francis is the patron saint of the environment, so we wanted to build something that was as ‘green’ as possible”. The design that was proposed was unlike any other concept that Monsignor Craig had received from the dozens of other Bakersfield landscape contractors that had offered their services.
In little more than 30-days, Monji Landscape Co. had brought their landscape design to life. Now, Mary has a beautiful, lush backdrop of a living wall that pops with brilliant colors. The installation features nearly 700 plants, with the living wall and neighboring vine walls covering up the Church’s formerly stark white walls. In addition, amazing Italian Cypress trees frame the structure and numerous other plantings were added to add drama to the landscape. A pondless fountain was also added to provide a calming sound to the space. And, in order to allow seating for the 6,000 plus families that frequent the Church on a Sunday, the Bakersfield landscape company created a perimeter of beautifully sculpted stone benches for them to sit and enjoy the garden. The final touch to the garden was of deep significance to the Church, Monji Landscape Co. created to stone entombment to commemorate those that are laid to rest at this very memorial.
Once completed, Dan commented, “It was such an honor for us to recreate this memorial for St. Francis Church. The best part is seeing the joy and happiness it brings to those that visit.” In order to ensure the beauty of the site year-round, the Bakersfield landscape maintenance division of the Monji Landscape Co. makes monthly services to the property.