An abbey of the Roman Catholic English Benedictine Congregation in St. Louis County, Missouri, the Saint Louis Abbey is recognized around the world because of both its unique design and its disciplined monks that live in the Abbey according to the Benedictine discipline of prayer and work.
The monks of the Saint Louis Abbey pray five times each day, celebrate mass in both English and Latin, and work in the Saint Louis Priory School, which the Abbey runs on its 150-acre campus.
Founded in 1955 by three monks that were sent from the Benedictine Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire, England, the Saint Louis Abbey has a long history of success. On several occasions, the monks and others responsible for running the Abbey have been selected to oversee other projects that started with one of the founding monks leaving for missionary work in Africa. Fr. Timothy Horner served as the editor of the widely used Rule of Saint Benedict and Fr. Ralph Wright, the Abbey’s vocational director, is an accomplished poet, translator, and author.
Construction of the Abbey took about seven years to complete, but the monastery was completely rebuilt and expanded in 2000. Designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, the Abbey Church is an important architectural landmark. The facade consists of three tiers of thin-poured concrete parabolic arches, with the top tier forming a large bell tower.
Inside, the church holds a 14th century sculpture of the Madonna and Christ child, a 17th century holy font in the Della Robbia syle, and other pieces of more modern art by artists from Spain, France, the United States, and Great Britain. Life-size sculptures of Saint Benedict and the Virgin Mary decorate the church’s grounds.
St. Louis summers can be brutal and this church was built without air conditioning. In the mid 1980s the congregation raised enough money to have air conditioning installed but voted instead to donate the money to charity.