Abbey of New Clairvaux

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Entrance to New Clairvaux Abbey
Wine tasting sign outside the Abbey

The Abbey of New Clairvaux is a rural Trappist monastery located in Northern California in the small town of Vina in Tehama County.[1] The farmland, once owned by Leland Stanford, grows prunes, walnuts, and grapes which the monks harvest from the orchards and vineyards to sustain the community.

History and daily life[edit]

The Abbey was established in 1955 when monks from the Abbey of Gethsemani sought to begin a foundation in California. The monks live an austere contemplative life of penance and prayer on behalf of the reparation of sins. Their order is called Cistercians of the Strict Observance.[2]

The setting is extremely quiet and the monastery is completely hidden behind a wall that separates the guest and extern quarters and the monastic enclosure. There is very little interaction between the monks and retreatants; however, guests are welcome to join the monks in the chapel to chant the Divine Office seven times per day, beginning with Vigil at 3:30 a.m. and ending with Compline at 7:35 p.m.

California Governor Jerry Brown is known to visit the Abbey. In 2009 Brown visited at the monastery before announcing his candidacy for California Governor.[3]

Chapter house[edit]

View from within the 800-year-old chapter house brought from Santa Maria de Ovila in Spain

Currently, the community is in the process of reassembling what the monks call their "Sacred Stones," the limestone blocks from the 800-year-old chapter house (meeting room) of the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria de Ovila that once stood in Trillo, Guadalajara, Spain. William Randolph Hearst purchased and dismantled the chapter house of the old Spanish monastery in 1931 and had the stones shipped to California, intending to include them in Wyntoon, a grand home he was building in remote Northern California. Instead, Hearst gave the stones to the city of San Francisco as part of an arrangement to abate taxes that he owed. The stones sat in San Francisco's Golden Gate park until 1994 when they were given to the abbey. The chapter house is being reconstructed outside the cloister of the Abbey of New Clairvaux.[4] In October 2008, the ancient chapter house's Gothic portal was completed. In 2009, construction on the interior of the chapter house began with Gothic columns rising to their capitals.[5][6][7][8]


Entrance to wine tasting room

In 2000, a vineyard was planted. Leland Stanford himself had a vineyard on the property as far back as 1881, and Stanford's winery building still stands on the grounds. The monastery began to sell its wine in 2005.[9]


In 2010, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company partnered with the Abbey, with the monastery beginning production of Trappist-style beers in 2011. The Abbey has not yet been sanctioned by the International Trappist Association, and therefore will not be brewing official Trappist beer.[10] Several dubbel, tripel, and quadrupel Abbey beers are produced under the Ovila label.


  1. ^ Christine Vovakes (July 7, 2007). "Medieval times are re-created at Vina monastery". The Sacramento Bee Metro section, p. B2.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Patterson, Margot (December 12, 2008). "Stone by stone". National Catholic Reporter. Archived from the original on April 10, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2011.
  3. ^ "Jerry Retreats, Wally Fumbles, Bruce Cashes In". Calbuzz. September 1, 2009. Archived from the original on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  4. ^ Olenyn, Jerry (August 11, 2017). "Vina monastery church built with medieval stones nears completion". KRCR. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  5. ^ ONISHI, NORIMITSU (January 10, 2013). "Monks in California Reconstruct Monastery Building From Spain". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  6. ^ Anderson, Lessley (December 26, 2012). "Medieval church finds home in California". SFGate. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  7. ^ Bunderson, Carl (January 10, 2013). "California monks build new chapel with medieval stones". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  8. ^ HUTCHISON, JAKE (July 3, 2018). "Vina monastery dedicates new church". Chico Enterprise-Record. Retrieved 5 July 2018 – via Red Bluff Daily News.
  9. ^ Urseny, Laura (July 2, 2018). "Going Greek: Vina monastery wines success story". Chico Enterprise-Record. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  10. ^ Brooks, Jay R. (October 6, 2010). "Sierra Nevada Partners With The Abbey of New Clairvaux". Ale Street News. Retrieved 2011-03-15.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°56′05″N 122°03′38″W / 39.934644°N 122.060606°W / 39.934644; -122.060606