Monastic Moderne

is that what we should call this? we were walking around the courtyard of the new visitors center at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit when it came to us—the simplicity and cleanness of lines, the combination of new concrete (established as the signature construction material by the sanctuary itself), the old brick and warm wood, the materials somehow made soft the rigidly organized structure. Much as the constrained bonsais in the garden center, everything about the monastery is intentional, and yet it is organic. One feels appropriately quieted as you step from your car, especially, perhaps, on a gray rainy day when no one else is around.

But the abbey church is the real centerpiece, emerging, unexpectedly—and ungrand-ly—around a corner.

unassuming (front entrance) Untitled

The church was built by the first troupe of trappist monks who moved to this remote spot in Conyers, Ga, from Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky in 1944. It took 15 years for them to complete the church, the simplistic of Gothic structures, concrete ribs hold up a wooden ceiling and concrete walls frame the most beautiful modern stain-glass pieces. It glows blue and purple in the soaring empty sanctuary. Timeless simplicity leaves little to be dated save a few small details: the formica upstairs, sixties-modern steel stair rail, and pattern of the scored brick in the balcony. According to the website (which is wonderfully informative), this church holds the distinction of being the only abbey church built by its monks.

“The architecture of the church reflects an interior reality,” symbolic in form, design, and orientation, it is, as are other traditional churches and cathedrals, a symbol of man’s relation to God, a sanctuary for prayer and contemplation and an architectural embodiment of the kind of life being led at the monastery itself, and the direction our own spiritual lives should take. Architecture and the monastery are intimately related, the one reflecting and guiding the other. (read more here)

Mostly I couldn’t stop thinking that Dad would’ve loved this place. It seems to embody his ideals, his beliefs, and his style. Walking back to the car in the rain I noticed the newly planted shrubbery along the walk was a long line of blueberry bushes.
every detail.


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