The main reason why the order started this ambitious project was because of a growing number of vocations, which still continues to grow. We were looking for further development on the grounds of the current abbey, but due to the instability of the land, this was no longer an option. This drove us to the current site which was purchased in 2006 but did not receive until 2012….
The construction of the abbey should be done by October of this year. Given this outlook, if all remains well, we will be able to celebrate the first Mass by January 2021, though this is not set in stone yet.
To give your readers an understanding of the church dimensions, from the narthex to the tabernacle, the length is 230 feet, and it is almost 70 feet high. This provides the human imagination a glimpse of the grand scale of this new abbey. The blueprint model came from an old abbey in southern France in Occitanie, the abbey of Conques. This historic abbey was built around the same time Saint Norbert was founding our order in the twelfth century—1121, to be exact. Next year, it will be 900 years since the founding of our order!
The abbey of Conques, built in the Romanesque style, is quite simple but stunning beautiful in its aesthetic dimensions and proportions. It’s very much in keeping with the monasticism of its particular era. The abbey of Conques is a Benedictine abbey, and there is another abbey not too far from there called the abbey of Le Barroux, also in Provence, which was basically modeled on the abbey of Conques. We knew the abbot of Le Barroux, reached out to him, and surveyed the grounds. Upon sight, the universal consensus became clear that this design was the one we desired to for our abbey.
We asked them if, by any chance, they still had the blueprint documents or knew how to contact the architect who built the abbey. To our immediate surprise, the abbot responded that the architect, who is featured in our City of Saints web series, lived not too far from there and assisted us in contacting him. Thanks be to God, the architect is vibrantly alive while in his 80s. So we quickly flew to his residence and had a very nice conversation. To our disappointment, he said that it would be improbable for him, given his advanced years, to design something similar to the abbey of Le Barroux. Yet, the following day, he brought a sketch, which he had made the previous night, of how the abbey should look. We were left speechless, utterly impressed and humbled by God’s grace intervening through this man….
The above comes from a July 22 story in Crisis magazine. The story is an interview with Father Justin Ramos, who spearheaded the $120 million fundraising drive.