Monastery(Abby) / St.Norbert / Manitoba, Canada
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member BarbershopDru
N 49° 45.447 W 097° 09.290
14U E 632898 N 5513297
Architectural Remains The monastic buildings constructed by the Trappists are examples of unique religious architecture in Manitoba. The buildings’ austere and restrained French design was consistent with the Cistercian spiritual values.
Waymark Code: WM23G8
Location: Manitoba, Canada
Date Posted: 08/29/2007
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 219

Father Richot had long hoped to establish a monastery on a secluded piece of parish land along the La Salle River. In 1891, Ritchot’s hopes were realized. He and Archbishop Taché of St. Boniface persuaded the Abbot of Bellefontaine, France, to establish a home for Trappist monks in St. Norbert.

The Trappists were an independent branch of the Cistercian Order which began in Normandy after 1664. They strictly followed the basic tenets of St. Benedict: charity, obedience and humility. Religious persecution in France during the late nineteenth century forced many Trappists to leave Europe.

In 1892, the monks arrived at Nôtre-Dame des Prairies (Our Lady of the Prairies). For eighty-six years the site provided the Trappists with tranquility and sustenance for their lives of prayer and manual labour.

Through hard work and devotion, the monks of Nôtre-Dame des Prairies built the monastery into a prosperous agricultural operation complete with a sawmill, forge, apiary, cheese house, bakery and greenhouses. Themselves vegetarians, the monks sold meat, dairy products, honey and their world-famous cheese to the outside community. The monks, ranging in number from thirty to forty-five, perfected their skills as gardeners, carpenters, ironworkers and decorative artists.

The first monastery building, constructed shortly after the monks arrived in 1892, was a three-storey wooden structure on a stone foundation which featured a chapel, porch and bell tower. It was adapted as a house for guests in 1904 when the monks moved to a larger residence built nearby.

In the Trappist tradition of hospitality, the guest house welcomed church officials, the monks’ families and individuals on retreat. In 1912, the guest house was destroyed by fire. The monks replaced it immediately with a new guest house, the building now occupied by the St. Norbert Arts Centre.

The new chapel and monastery were completed between 1903 and 1907. Its Romanesque Revival construction is considered to be of outstanding architectural merit, deomonstrating unparalleled richness and clarity of form. Built of brick and tyndall stone, the chapel featured a lovely rose window, silver-domed bell tower, eight free-standing radiating columns and a cluster of seven smaller chapels. Attached to the chapel with corresponding colour and detail was the monastery, which repeated the rectangular floor plan, mansard roof and dormer windows of the guest house.
An Ending and a New Beginning

The Trappists made many efforts over the years to preserve their peaceful solitude. However, by the 1960s, encroaching urbanization increased traffic in and through St. Norbert. In 1975, the Trappists decided to relocate to a more secluded location near Holland, Manitoba, 145 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of Winnipeg. By 1978, most of the outbuildings had been taken down or moved. Only the chapel and monastic wing, guest house and gate house remained. The property was sold to Genstar Corporation, a Canadian land development company.

Local residents acting through the non-profit organization Heritage St. Norbert Inc., set out to preserve the site’s historical and cultural character. In 1980, the group secured from the City of Winnipeg a historic building designation for the chapel and monastic wing. The group began to research possible uses for the site.Tragedy struck in 1983. Vandals lit a fire which gutted the vacant chapel and monastery. Fortunately, the Guest House, located some distance away, was spared.

The fire did not destroy the beauty and dignity of the site, however. Heritage St. Norbert’s efforts turned to preserving the only existing monastic ruins in North America. In 1987, through the cooperation of Genstar and three levels of government, the property was set aside as a provincial heritage park

In 1988, as a result of the efforts of Heritage St. Norbert, the Province of Manitoba designated the guest house and the surrounding land as a heritage site. That same year, the guest house and adjacent five acres were purchased from Genstar with a donation from St. Norbert residents William and Shirley Loewen. Thanks to provincial grants, donations and countless volunteer hours, the Guest House was partially renovated.
Birth of St. Norbert Arts Centre

In February of 1991, L’Hôtellerie St. Norbert Guest House Inc. was incorporated to assume ownership of the guest house. Later, the organization began to operate the guest house as the St. Norbert Arts Centre. Between January and July of 1995, the St. Norbert Arts Centre undertook an ambitious and extensive renovation of the Guest House.

Full name of the abbey/monastery/convent: Notre-Dame des Prairies

Rue des Ruines des Monastere
St Norbert, MB Canada

Religious affiliation: Trappist - Cistercian Order

Date founded/constructed: 1903

Web Site: [Web Link]

Status of Use: Restored Ruin

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