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The Ancient Spanish Monastery Cloisters

(Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux)

 

(The Oldest Building in North America)

16711 W. Dixie Highway

N.M.B., Fl 33160

Phone (305) 945-1461

This beautifully serene setting is available for weddings, receptions, parties and meetings.  Call today for our donation schedules.

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Monastery gardens Vaulted Cloisters Chapel Altar

How a Tenth Century Monastery came to South Florida

   The Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux was built in Sacramenia, in the Province of Segovia, Spain, during the period 1133·1141. It was originally dedicated in honor of the Blessed Mother and named the "Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels." Upon the canonization of the famous Cistercian Monk, Bernard of Clairvaux, a leading influence in the Church during that period, the Monastery was renamed in his honor. Cistercian monks occupied the monastery for nearly 700 years. The cloisters were seized, sold, and converted into a granary and stable due to a social revolution in that area in the mid·1830's.

    In 1925 William Randolph Hearst purchased the Cloisters and the Monastery's outbuildings. The structures were dismantled stone by stone, bound with protective hay, packed in some 11,000 wooden crates, numbered for identification and shipped to the United States. About that time, hoof and mouth disease had broken out in Segovia, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fearing possible contagion, quarantined the shipment upon its arrival, broke open the crates and burned the hay, a possible carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, the workmen failed to replace the stones in the same numbered boxes before moving them to a warehouse. Soon after the shipment arrived, Hearst's financial problems forced most of his collection to be sold at auction. The stones remained in a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York, for 26 years. One year after Hearts' death in 1952, they were purchased by Messrs. W. Edgemon and R. Moss for use as a tourist attraction. It took 19 months and almost $1.5 million dollars to put the Monastery back together.  Some of the unmatched stones still remain in the back lot; others were used in the construction of the present Church's Parish Hall.

    St Bernard's Church, as we know it today, started out not on these grounds but at a savings and loan building on N.E. 167th Street. Its name at that time was "The Mission of St. John the Divine," and services were held at that location for approximately one year under the leadership of Rev. Harold L. Batchelor (1963-64).  The Mission of St. John the Divine became the Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, named in honor of the great Saint who had been a leading influence among the Cistercians 847 years ago, and whose feast day is commemorated on August 20.

    In 1964, Bishop Henry Louttit purchased the property for the Diocese of South Florida, later to become the Dioceses of Central, Southeast and Southwest Florida.  Shortly thereafter, when the three dioceses ran into financial difficulties, the Monastery was put up for sale and the parishioners of St. Bernard feared a second move.  During the Bishopric of the Rt. Rev. James Duncan, Col. Robert Pentland, JR, a multimillionaire banker, philanthropist and benefactor of many Episcopal churches, purchased the Cloisters and presented them to the parish of St. Bernard de Clairvaux.

 

 
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