This Trappist monastery in northern California has medieval European origins. In the 1930s, William Randolph Hearst had the 12th-century Cistercian monastery Santa Maria de Óvila disassembled and brought from Spain to the United States. For several decades, throughout the Great Depression and World War II, the stones sat unused in Golden Gate Park. The Abbey of New Clairvaux was founded in the 1950s, and eventually acquired the stones from Santa Maria in the 1990s. The monks raised enough funds to rebuild the Gothic Chapter House, open to public tours since 2012. They also maintain vineyards to make wine and partner with Sierra Nevada Brewing to produce Ovila beer.
Watch the videos below to learn more about monastic life and the Sacred Stones construction project!
History of the Cistercian Order and the Emergence of TrappistsThe monks who currently live, work, and pray at the Abbey of New Clairvaux are Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly known as Trappists. Cistercian monasticism has a centuries-long history. According to the traditional narrative, the Cistercian Order arose out
of a conscious effort to reform monastic life during the High Middle Ages, casting aside the perceived
excesses and worldly attachments of many eleventh-century monasteries and
returning to a purer adherence to the sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict. Robert, abbot of Molesme, and a group of
followers left their abbey in 1098 seeking to build a community that was
simpler, more isolated, and more fully dedicated to the Rule. At Cîteaux, they found the seclusion and austerity they sought.
The harsh conditions and scarcity of new recruits meant that the
community struggled to survive its first decade of existence. The famous future saint Bernard (c. 1090-1153)
joined the monastery in 1112 and became abbot of Clairvaux in 1115. His
subsequent work as abbot, writer, and preacher seems to have revitalized the
community, which expanded rapidly over the following decades. Cistercian
ideals included devotion to simplicity, as expressed in their unadorned
art and architecture, as well as in their performance of manual labor. Cistercians viewed labor
in the fields as essential for truly conforming to the Benedictine Rule, which
states, “Idleness is the enemy of the soul. The brethren, therefore, must be
occupied at stated hours in manual labor.” Nonetheless, the monks could
not perform all of the necessary work themselves, so they accepted lay
brothers (conversi) as well. Lay brothers, who were
generally drawn from lower social classes than monks, were responsible for
performing physical labor and managing Cistercian estates. Despite their lower
status, they were vital to the survival of the monastery, and they, like monks,
received “a full assurance of salvation” for their works (Southern, 257).