From Spain to Miami: How a Medieval Monastery Traveled Across the Atlantic

If you want to see medieval-era castles, you’d have to go all the way over to Europe, right?  Well guess what! You can find one just outside of – wait for it…

Miami, FL.

Yes, you read that right.  There is a 12th century Spanish Monastery in Florida less than an hour away from Miami.  Built over the span of 8 years in the Segovia province of Spain from 1133 AD – 1141 AD, the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux was home to Cistercian monks until the 1830’s.  It was then sold off and turned into grain storage and stables.

So how did it get from Spain to Florida?

William R Hearst, who was best known for his work as a big-shot editor and owner of large publication companies like the San Francisco Examiner and the New York Morning Journal, is responsible for bringing the St. Bernard de Clairvaux monastery to the United States.

Hearst apparently wanted to build a cabana around his swimming pool with the monastery (kind of excessive, don’t you think??).

And so he purchased the building in 1925, had it taken apart and shipped to a warehouse in Brooklyn, New York where it sat for over 25 years.

Unfortunately for William Hearst, he soon found himself to be in a bit of financial trouble – probably from buying one too many Spanish monasteries – and had to auction off most of his collection of art and assets, including the St. Bernard de Clairvaux.

In 1952, a year after Hearst died, two gentlemen named W. Edgemon and R. Moss bought the pieces of the monastery and had it rebuilt in its current location just outside of Miami, Florida as a tourist attraction.

In 1964 it was sold once again to Colonel Robert Pentland Jr. who then gifted the monastery to the Bishop of Florida.

Today, the monastery is still operational with services held on Sundays and weekdays in both English and Spanish, and is also a popular tourist destination.

medieval monastery