Mount Angel Abbey

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Mount Angel Seminary
Mt. Angel Abbey seal.svg
Former names
Mt. Angel College
EstablishedOctober 30, 1882
ChancellorThe Right Reverend Jeremy Driscoll O.S.B
Location, ,
United States
AffiliationsRoman Catholic
(Order of Saint Benedict)

Mount Angel Abbey is a private Roman Catholic seminary, university, and community of Benedictine monks in St. Benedict, Oregon, United States. It was established in 1882 from the Abbey of Engelberg, Switzerland. The abbey, located on the top of Mount Angel, a 485-foot-high butte (148 m),[1] has its own post office separate from the city of Mt. Angel's—Saint Benedict.

The Seminary is located within the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon but it also serves as the major seminary for the Diocese of Baker, the Diocese of Boise, the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, and the Diocese of Helena. The Archdiocese of Seattle sends its College Seminarians to Bishop White Seminary along with the Diocese of Spokane and the Diocese of Yakima. The seminarians are then given the choice of attending either University of Saint Mary of the Lake or Mount Angel.[2][3]

The seminary offers degrees to both lay students and those studying for the priesthood. The undergraduate school offers bachelor's degrees to seminarians in philosophy, literature, and religious studies. The graduate school offers master's degrees to both seminarians and lay students in theology, scripture studies, and philosophy.[4]


1882–1889: Establishment[edit]

View of the abbey

Mount Angel Abbey was founded on October 30, 1882[5] by Benedictine monks who immigrated to the United States from Engelberg, Switzerland, who found the abbey's landscape to be similar of that which they had left in the Swiss Alps.[4] It was conceived by Father Adelhelm Odermatt, a monk of Engelberg Abbey working in Missouri. Five years after the abbey's construction in 1882, the monks opened their school in 1887, under the name of Mount Angel College.[5] In 1889, at the request of Archbishop William Gross of Oregon City, the monks established a seminary in conjunction with their college.[5]

1901–1980: Abbey and college[edit]

In 1903, Father Thomas Meienhofer, also a native of Switzerland, became the first abbot,[6] and in 1904, the community was officially declared an abbey, which meant that it became independent from its motherhouse in Switzerland.[5] In 1926, a second fire in the abbey's history destroyed its monastery, forcing the community into private homes and the nearby parish school and rectory.[6] The monks began rebuilding, and in 1930 erected Aquinas Hall, and a gymnasium in 1936.[6] In 1939, the Abbey's first daughterhouse, Westminster Abbey, was established in Vancouver, British Columbia.[5] In 1946, the college was shut down so that the Abbey could focus on its seminary and boys' preparatory school. In 1959, a retreat house was constructed on the property to serve the spiritual needs of laypeople.[5] In the early 1950s, the monastery became one of approximately 900 locations that would serve as emergency hospitals in the event of a nuclear war.[7]

In 1965, two new monasteries were started from Mount Angel Abbey: Ascension Priory in Idaho, and Our Lady of the Angels Priory in Cuernavaca, Mexico.[6] In 1980, Father Bonaventure Zerr was elected as the seventh abbot, establishing a new library for not only seminarians, but for the use of scholarly research.[6] The library at the abbey was designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Though the seminary has historically been the central focus of the abbey, it has also become open to non-seminarians seeking bachelor's degrees in philosophy and theology. In the 1970s, the Abbey community had a total of 125 monks living on the grounds, making it one of the largest Benedictine male communities in the United States.[5]

1981–present: Seminary identity[edit]

Mount Angel Seminary, which was originally part of the now defunct Mount Angel College, serves numerous western dioceses and currently has approximately 200 students.[8] The college was originally composed of seven schools, but as the college turned its focus toward the seminary, the two remaining schools are the liberal arts college and the graduate school of theology.[5] The makeup of the seminary population is 40% Anglo-American and 60% minorities, primarily Hispanic, Vietnamese, and Filipino.[5] The Seminary's main church has a tower that contains the largest free-swinging bells on the west coast.[9]

In 2006, a new seminary building received a Best Sustainable Award for Oregon and Washington.[5] The following year, to commemorate the abbey's 125th anniversary, a new bell tower was erected.[5]


The seminary has undergraduate and graduate programs. The undergraduate program is devoted towards a bachelor's degree in philosophy. Students may choose a double degree by studying one of two additional fields—religious studies or literature. Many of the students from the undergraduate degree program continue on to study in Rome, San Francisco, Chicago, Leuven, or Washington, D.C.[10]


The Abbey library, reconstructed in 1980, is used by both seminary students and theology students. In addition to a wide range of books, the library also has an archive of medieval manuscripts dating back to the 12th century.[11] The library has digitized multiple manuscripts, many from England, France, and Italy, through the Ethiopic Manuscripts Digitization Project.[11]


The Mount Angel Abbey Museum is a collection of assorted artifacts, including mounted animal dioramas, rocks and minerals, serendipitous objects, antique liturgical vestments and religious items, and American Civil War memorabilia. The museum is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday.[12]

Benedictine Brewery[edit]

In 2018, the third monastic brewery in the United States[13] opened at the Abbey. Brewing is common among Trappists, but is also part of the Benedictine tradition—which is the order that occupies the Mount Angel Abbey, a 350-acre monastery secluded on a wooded butte above the small farming town of Mount Angel. Abbey monks are now brewing beer as part of a six-year project helmed by Father Martin and his understudy, Father Jacob, with guidance from beer writers Jeff Alworth and Stan Hieronymus.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McArthur, Lewis A.; McArthur, Lewis L. (2003) [1928]. Oregon Geographic Names (Seventh ed.). Portland, Oregon: Oregon Historical Society Press. p. 836. ISBN 0-87595-277-1.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "Seminary History". Mount Angel Abbey. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Drnjevic, Cyril. "Mt. Angel Abbey". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Abbey History". Mount Angel Abbey. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
  7. ^ Graff, Garrett M. (2017). Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself - While the Rest of Us Die. Simon & Schuster.
  8. ^ Haught, Nancy (August 18, 2012). "Woodburn priest's arrest focuses attention on Mount Angel Abbey". The Oregonian. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Hilltop Walking Tour". Mount Angel Abbey. Retrieved 2020-02-25.
  10. ^ "Mount Angel Abbey". Mount Angel Abbey. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Medieval Books and Manuscripts". Mt. Angel Abbey. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  12. ^ "Mount Angel Abbey Museum". Retrieved September 1, 2015.
  13. ^ "America's Newest Monastic Brewery Opens in Oregon". BeerAdvocate. Retrieved 2018-09-12.
  14. ^ "Benedictine Brewery at Mount Angel Abbey is a 350-Acre Secluded Butte Where Monks Are the Brewers". Willamette Week. Retrieved 2018-09-12.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°03′25″N 122°46′28″W / 45.056971°N 122.774459°W / 45.056971; -122.774459