Saint Meinrad Archabbey almost made me swear. That’s because when we walked out of the retreat area and rounded a corner, this is what I saw.
When we drove up to the retreat center, I thought “it’s a nice looking building, but I’ve seen other retreat centers.” I didn’t know what all the fuss was about, after hearing about how beautiful the place was. Then we walked out with John Farless, the associate director of communications, and I saw the actual cathedral.
Luckily, I remembered where I was, and said, “WOW!” several times instead. We spent a couple hours with John, getting a tour of the beautiful church and grounds, as well as a quick stop in the coffee shop (great mochas)
The huge church took seven years to build, from 1900 – 1907. The sandstone used was quarried on the Archabbey’s property and hauled in by mule and wagon.
The altar at the front of the church features 17 gilded bronze panels that illustrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as events from His life and teachings. The tiered seats on either side of the altar are there so the monks can pray together. There is also a shrine to Saint Meinrad to the left of the organ (which was rebuilt in 1997), the statue of the “Black Madonna,” which was given by Saint Meinrad’s mother abbey in Switzerland.
The Chapter Room is where the monks conduct their regular business. We had a chance to peek in, since there was nothing going on at the time, and look at the beautiful artwork created by Dom Gregory de Wit, a Belgian monk who was visiting Saint Meinrad in the 1940s. The scenes on the ceiling illustrate Creation, and the windows are based on themes of the monastic life and vocation. (You can see photos of these in the slide show below.)
Saint Meinrad is a beautiful church and seminary. There is a sense of peace and slowness there, and any feelings I had of having to rush back home were forgotten as we spent nearly 90 minutes with John touring the grounds, and enjoying his hospitality.