St. Meinrad is one of two archabbey’s in the US. (The other is St. Vincent in Pennsylvania.) What makes it an archabbey, I asked as a non-Catholic? Archabbey is a designation bestowed by the Pope for some service that the church did. In St. Meinrad’s case, it was developing Benedictine life in the US.
Founded in 1854, St. Meinrad is slightly older than the sisters of St. Benedict at the Monastery Immaculate Conception. The seminary, still going strong, began in 1857. (Vince Luecke, one of the owners of St. Benedict Brew Works, actually studied with the monks here.) The community consists of the seminary, Abbey Press (started in 1867), Abbey Caskets (!), a guest house, and a retreat program.
Alas, I had no luck getting a tour. At least not a guided tour. (St. Meinrad only gives tours once time during the week….and I had missed that day.)
Instead, I picked up a flyer for a self-guided tour. The flyer was quite informative and wound me through the church proper, through the courtyard, and into several different rooms. The church is beautiful with its stained-glass windows (from Munich in 1908) and small chapel directly behind the sanctuary. (However, after seeing the sisters’ awe-inspiring church at the Monastery Immaculate Conception, I was a bit biased towards the sisters’ place of worship.)
The church was renovated from 1996 to 1997. The second-level floor and two balconies were removed, presumably to give it a grander feel. A marble floor was also installed. The space is filled with choir stalls for the monks, high back chairs that must give them a praying-in-solitude type feel.
The self-guided tour took me from the church, through the courtyard, to the Chapter Room where the monks conduct business. The room is full of artwork on the walls and ceiling. Gregory de Wit, a Belgian monk who visited St. Meinrad, created the art and designed the windows. (He also is responsible for the painting of Christ over the organ in the church, which he completed in 1943.)
I left the Chapter Room and proceeded to the Memorial Lobby, The murals here, like the artwork in the Chapter Room, were created by Gregory de Wit. The heavy wooden doors spit me out directly across from the library, which hosts art exhibits. During my visit, the art of William Schnickel was on display.
Next to the library is the cemetery, an ever-present feature of historic churches. I wondered through the tombstones of father after father. Last, I headed towards the gift shop, set a bit apart from the church and library in this bucolic setting. The hike was pleasant enough, taking me through free-ranging chickens in the bucolic setting of St. Meinrad.