Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Monday 30 November |
The Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle
home iconTravel
line break icon

The "12th-century" church in California that was supposed to be a swimming pool

SANTA MARIA OVILA ABBEY

Public Domain

Zelda Caldwell - published on 03/14/18

Trappist monks built the church of the Abbey of New Clairvaux out of stones from a Spanish monastery.

Today the Trappist-Cistercian monks at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, California, operate a thriving monastery and working vineyard and winery that helps them to, in the tradition of their order, live their lives in prayer by the fruit of their own labor.

This year, 25 years after construction began, these monks completed work on their church, which was built with stones from an 800-year-old Cistercian monastery in Spain.

The path these stones took from a monastery in Spain, to California, to being rebuilt as a monastery again is a circuitous one.

The story begins in central Spain, at the Santa Maria Ovila abbey, founded by the Cistercian monks in the 1181. In 1931, the abbey was in a state of decay. It had closed down in the 1830s and was in private hands when newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst heard about it.


Spencer Beer

Read more:
Spencer: The first Trappist brewery in the “New World”

Hearst purchased the entire monastery for $97,000, spent twice that amount to have it dismantled and shipped in crates to San Francisco, where the limestone blocks were kept in storage to be used later to build a swimming pool, bowling alley and entryway.

The Depression put the kibosh on those plans, and Hearst donated the monastery stones to the city of San Francisco, which had agreed to rebuild the monastery as a museum.

That never happened either. For years, the stones stayed in Golden Gate Park, where they had been dumped.

Enter Father Thomas Davis, the abbot of a new monastery in Vina, California. When he first saw the Ovila monastery stones during a drive through Golden Gate Park in 1955, he was struck by the coincidence that they were from a Cistercian monastery and he was a Cistercian monk.

Decades later Davis made a deal with the city museum. If they would give the monastery the 1,300 stones. he would reconstruct the abbey and open it to the public.

Twenty-five years later, the new-old church built with stones from a 12th-century abbey will soon welcome the 16 monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux and any members of the public who wish to attend Mass there.

For an update on the church’s construction, click here. For information about visiting the monastery and vineyard, click here.

Tags:
ArchitectureChurch History
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Eric Clapton, Luciano Pavarotti, East London Gospel Choir
J-P Mauro
Hear Clapton and Pavarotti sing a prayer to t...
John Paul II
Philip Kosloski
St. John Paul II's guide to a fruitful Advent
CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED HEART
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
6 Questions to determine if your heart is har...
FIRST CENTURY HOUSE AT THE SISTERS OF NAZARETH SITE
John Burger
British archaeologist confident he has found ...
PRAY
Cerith Gardiner
12 Things we can be grateful for this Thanksg...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.