Abbey of New Clairvaux – Vina, California - Atlas Obscura

Abbey of New Clairvaux

Vina, California

The long, arduous journey of the stones of the Abbey of New Clairvaux. 

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If only the stones that make up the Abbey of New Clairvaux could speak.

They began their journey as a Spanish Trappist Monastery in the 12th century, which was then rebuilt in the 16th century, which was then dismantled, and the stones traveled from Madrid to California. It was there that  William Randolph Hearst planned to rebuild the monastery and repurpose it as an indoor swimming pool on his mother’s estate.

Hearst did not follow through with his excessive plans after the Depression, and the stones were donated to the city of San Francisco, transported to Golden Gate Park and left in crates behind the Japanese Tea Garden. After surviving a fire, many were swiped to reinforce structures in the tea garden and placed in gardens around the park, scattered in weeds behind the DeYoung Museum and repurposed as planters.

The Abbey of New Clairvaux property sits on the site of land that once belonged to Leland Stanford. The stones were stored in a building that Stanford used at one point for storing brandy. Now the stones have finally been rebuilt into their rightful place, a monastery in Vina, California, with limestone filling in the missing pieces. 

Today both day visitors and longer-term guests are welcome at the monastery for wine tasting, walks, and meditation.

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