Saint Louis Abbey

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Saint Louis Abbey
Priory Chapel at Saint Louis Abbey - July 2013.jpg
Abbey Church
Monastery information
Full nameThe Abbey of St. Mary and St. Louis
Mother houseAmpleforth Abbey
Dedicated toVirgin Mary
St. Louis, King of France
DioceseSt. Louis
Controlled churchesSt. Anselm's
Founder(s)Rt. Rev. Columba Cary-Elwes
Rt. Rev. Luke Rigby
Rev. Timothy Horner
AbbotRt. Rev. Gregory Mohrman
PriorRev. Cassian Koenemann
LocationCreve Coeur, Missouri
Coordinates38°38′39″N 90°28′44″W / 38.6442°N 90.4789°W / 38.6442; -90.4789Coordinates: 38°38′39″N 90°28′44″W / 38.6442°N 90.4789°W / 38.6442; -90.4789
The coat of arms of the abbey

The Abbey of Saint Mary and Saint Louis is an abbey of the Catholic English Benedictine Congregation (EBC) located in Creve Coeur, in St. Louis County, Missouri in the United States. The Abbey is an important presence in the spiritual life of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The monks of the Abbey live their faith according to the Benedictine discipline of 'prayer and work', praying the Divine Office five times daily, celebrating daily Masses in English and Latin, and working in the two parishes under their pastoral care and in the Saint Louis Priory School, which the Abbey runs as an apostolate.[1][2][3] The Abbey and its school sit on a 150-acre (0.61 km2) campus in west St. Louis County, in the city of Creve Coeur.[4]


Saint Louis Abbey was founded in 1955 as a priory of the Benedictine Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire, England, which dispatched three monks to plant a new foundation in St. Louis. They came at the invitation of Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter and a group of prominent St. Louis lay Catholics, who desired a boys' school in their community run according to the English Benedictine educational tradition. Those original three monks, Father Columba Cary-Elwes, Fr. (later Abbot) Luke Rigby, and Fr. Timothy Horner, arrived in St. Louis in the summer of 1955 and set about the formation of a new monastic community, with Fr. Columba serving as the community's founding prior and Fr. Timothy serving as the Priory School's founding headmaster.[5]

Fr. Columba served as prior until 1967, when he departed for missionary work in Africa, and was succeeded in his post by Fr. Luke. The St. Louis Priory, as it then was, became independent of Ampleforth in 1973, and was elevated to an abbey in 1989.[6] At this time, Fr. Luke Rigby was elected as the first Abbot of Saint Louis Abbey.[7] He was in turn succeeded by Fr. Thomas Frerking, O.S.B., a Rhodes Scholar, former Headmaster of the Saint Louis Priory School and Thomist scholar, who was elected to serve as Abbot on July 12, 1995 until retiring in June, 2018.[8] Fr. Gregory Mohrman, O.S.B., '76 was announced as Abbot on June 8, 2018. [9]

Construction of the distinctive Abbey Church was completed in 1962, and the original 1950s monastery was rebuilt and expanded in 2000–2001.[10][11] The various buildings of the Priory School also sit on the Abbey grounds; the current Lower House was constructed in the 1960s, and served as the Upper House at the time of its completion. The current Upper House was completed in several stages built from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Notable Brethren[edit]

  • The Rt. Rev. Columba Cary-Elwes, OSB, an author, monastic leader and former titular Abbot of Westminster, was the founding prior (1955–1967) of the Abbey.
  • Fr. Timothy Horner, OSB, served as an editor for the widely used 1980 edition of the Rule of Saint Benedict, and has published an account of the founding of the Abbey and its school, In Good Soil.[1][5]
  • Fr. Ralph Wright, OSB, is an accomplished poet, author and translator whose works include a reflection on the Eucharist in poems and prose entitled Our Daily Bread, and whose translation efforts include the English edition of The Joy of Believing, a collection of the writings of the French mystic Madeleine Delbrêl.[12][13]
  • Father J. Augustine Wetta, OSB, the Abbey's director of vocations, is an author, public speaker, and essayist. His books include Humility Rules [14] and The Eighth Arrow: Odysseus in the Underworld [15].

Present day[edit]

As of March 2010, St. Louis Abbey is home to a community of 23 solemnly professed brothers and 4 brothers in simple vows, as well as a claustral oblate and several novices.[16] It is the largest American house of the EBC.[6]

In addition to their other duties and ministries, many of the brothers are directly involved in the Abbey's school, teaching classes in most areas of instruction including Theology, Latin, Fine Arts, English, Mathematics, and Science, and coaching sporting teams including Tennis and Rugby.[17]

In line with the Benedictine tradition of offering hospitality and respite to travelers, the Abbey maintains a guest wing on the south side of the monastery with five rooms and two gardens. The brethren make themselves available to guests to hear confessions or provide counsel.[18]

The Abbey Church, also known as the Church of St. Mary and St. Louis and the Priory Chapel, was designed by Gyo Obata of Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum (HOK), with the Italian architect and engineer Pier Luigi Nervi serving as consultant.[19][20] The Abbey Church was an important landmark and name-making project for HOK, now the world's largest architectural practice (according to the 2006 edition of the BD World Architecture 200). The church's circular facade consists of three tiers of whitewashed, thin-poured concrete parabolic arches, the top one forming a bell-tower; the arches appear to float upwards from their grassy base. They are faced with dark insulated-fiberglass polyester window walls which create a meditative translucency when viewed from within. The church also contains a 14th-century sculpture of the Madonna and Christ child, a 17th-century holy font in the Della Robbia style, and more modern sacred art by artists from the United States, Great Britain, Spain, and France. The church is also home to a tracker action organ build by Gregor Hradetzky of Krems. On the grounds outside the church sit life-size sculptures of Saint Benedict, by Lithuanian-born artist Wiktor Szostalo, and of the Virgin Mary, the "Holy Blessed Virgin Mother Mary, Our Lady of Grace" by American sculptor Philip Howie.[10]

The Abbey Church serves as the home of the Archdiocesan parish of Saint Anselm. Monks of the abbey serve as pastor and associate pastor in the parish.[21]


  1. ^ a b T. Fry; et al. (1981). RB 1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with Notes. The Liturgical Press. ISBN 0-8146-1220-2.
  2. ^ "Work". Saint Louis Abbey. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  3. ^ "Worship & Prayer: The Divine Office". Saint Louis Abbey. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  4. ^ "Saint Louis Priory School". Independent Schools of St. Louis. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  5. ^ a b Horner, Timothy (2001). In good soil: the founding of Saint Louis Priory and School, 1954–1973. Saint Louis Abbey Press. ISBN 0-9662104-1-7.
  6. ^ a b "Monasteries of the English Benedictine Congregation". English Benedictine Congregation. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  7. ^ "A Priory Legacy: Abbot Luke Rigby" (PDF). Saint Louis Abbey. January 10, 2007. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  8. ^ "In Brief". St. Louis Review. Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri. July 24, 2003. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  9. ^ "Congratulations Abbot Gregory Mohrman, O.S.B., '76 - Saint Louis Priory School". Retrieved 2018-07-02.
  10. ^ a b Faherty, William Barnaby; Abeln, Mark Scott (2009). Catholic St. Louis: A Pictorial History. St. Louis, Mo: Reedy Press. p. 176. ISBN 1-933370-83-1.
  11. ^ Wotawa, Elizabeth (August 2, 2001). "New St. Louis Abbey: Linking prayer, beauty". St. Louis Review. Archdiocese of Saint Louis, Missouri. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  12. ^ Wright, Ralph (2008). Our Daily Bread: Glimpsing the Eucharist Through the Centuries. Paulist Press. ISBN 0-8091-4525-1.
  13. ^ Delbrel, Madelaine (1993). The Joy of Believing. Éditions Paulines. ISBN 2-89039-536-7.
  14. ^ Wetta, Augustine (2018). Humility Rules: Saint Benedict's Twelve-Step Guide to Genuine Self-Esteem. Ignatius Press. ISBN 162164149X.
  15. ^ Wetta, Augustine (2019). The Eighth Arrow: Odysseus in the Underworld. Ignatius Press. ISBN 1621642208.
  16. ^ "The Monks". Saint Louis Abbey. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  17. ^ "Saint Louis Priory School Faculty List". Saint Louis Priory School. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  18. ^ "Guests". Saint Louis Abbey. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  19. ^ "An Interview with Gyo Obata". FX Magazine. October 2006. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  20. ^ "Pier Luigi Nervi". Structurae. Retrieved 2010-03-29.
  21. ^ "Saint Anselm Parish". St. Anselm Parish. Retrieved 2010-03-28.

External links[edit]