Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Visit to the Abbey

Abbaye St-Benoit / Saint Benedict Abbey

Another item from my 30 Before 30 bucket list (30 things I'd like to do/see/accomplish by my 30th birthday to help me feel like I'm a little closer to where I should be in life, and give me something to work towards) was visiting the Saint Benedict Abbey...

You know how local attractions are always the ones you never visit, I suppose because they're just too close to home and don't seem all that special? Well the Abbey is one of those attractions for me. I've seen the signs on the highway for years, I've heard about the abbey and sampled their famous cheeses, and then my favourite author (Louise Penny who writes the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series) wrote a book based in an monastery inspired by the Saint Benedict Abbey. Well, that really got me interested in visiting the real place, and so I put it on my bucket list and told my family it was one of the things I thought we should do this summer. It's not far (about 20 minutes from my sister's place, which is an hour from home), and this past Sunday we were supposed to be going to my sister's for supper, so we packed a picnic lunch and made plans to visit the abbey "on our way" (it's actually beyond where they live, but that's beside the point). So that's what we did!

We didn't end up staying very long and didn't take the time to read all the placards, but I got some pretty nice pictures, and we got to visit the store in the basement of the main building and buy some cheese! There is also an orchard at the abbey, so they sell the apples, cider, jams and jellies that they make there, as well as chocolate, wine, and honey from other abbeys in Quebec. They also sell books, postcards, music, and typical Catholic souvenirs (medallions, rosaries, crucifixes, etc). I picked up some curd cheese, maple filled chocolates, vanilla fondant chocolates, and a few additions to my postcard collection! The abbey also welcomes overnight guests. Men stay in the monastery, and there is a separate house (Saint Scholastica's Villa) for the women.

Tour de St-Benoit side view
 
Front of the Tower

The window over the doorway

Stained glass windows on one side

The Virgin Mary and baby Jesus
 The first building we visited is called the Tower of Saint Benedict (Tour de St-Benoit) - it is a "house of prayer." It's just a small brick building on a hill with a gorgeous stone staircase, beautiful stained glass windows depicting various saints, with a prayer bench and altar in the centre. We spent a little time there appreciating the stained glass and reading the little note near the door about the building.
A different angle of the Abbey

The corridor to the church
Then we moved on to the main building. There is a sort of lobby when you come in, and from there you can go downstairs to the store (which we did first), or go off down this long corridor with many placards describing the origins of the abbey, various constructions and the life of the monks there, etc. (The Abbey celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012!) This corridor leads to another lobby and the church sanctuary. There was a musical concert a couple hours before we got there, and we left just a little before Vespers began, so there wasn't much action while we were there, but that's alright.

It was a quick visit, but an interesting one. I'd definitely go back, maybe sometime in the fall to pick apples or something. :)


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