The property of Mepkin Abbey has a long and storied history and was originally used by the Native Americans as a hunting ground.
The American patriot, Henry Laurens, purchased Mepkin in 1762. Engaged in commerce and the cultural and economic development of South Carolina, Laurens served as the First President of the Continental Congress (1777-1778). He was captured by the British on the high seas as he traveled to France to negotiate military aid. Held in the Tower of London, he was given in exchange for Lord Cornwallis at the end of the American Revolutionary War, and signed the Peace Treaty in Paris with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay. He is buried with other members of his family in a picturesque cemetery at Mepkin, overlooking the Cooper River. His line remains extant and descendants visit Mepkin on a regular basis.
Passing down through various owners, Mepkin was purchased in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the noted publisher-philanthropist, and his distinguished wife, the Hon. Clare Boothe Luce. They donated a large portion of their property to the Abbey of Gethsemani in 1949, for the purpose of founding a monastic community here.
Shortly after the Luces purchased Mepkin in 1936, Mrs. Luce commissioned the famed landscape architect Loutrell Briggs to create the Mepkin Gardens. They were renovated in 1988 through the vision of Nancy Bryan Luce, wife of Henry Luce III. Thousands continue to visit us and to stroll through these Gardens each year.
Some folks come to see the Mepkin Abbey Church and the Nancy Bryan Luce Gardens. They might stay no more than ten minutes or they may walk the Gardens leisurely and remain for an hour or more. Such visitors are welcomed to the Abbey six days a week, between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. (Mepkin is closed on Mondays).
The Guestmaster greets them at the Reception Center, answers any questions they may have and directs them to the Gardens. For those wishing to visit the Church, there are guided tours at 11:30 a.m. and at 3 p.m. There is no reservation required for such visits for individuals. Large groups (10 or more people) are asked to call in advance to make a reservation.
Eggs and garden compost from the Abbey's farm, and candies, preserves and creamed honey from other Trappist Abbeys are available at the Reception Center Gift Shop. The Shop also offers select books, tapes, religious articles, icons, candles, and other specialty gift items.
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